Qatada reference comes in for some strong criticism

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A MORPETH councillor has come under fire for using a terror suspect to highlight a major issue affecting his ward.

Ian Lindley produced what he believes were ‘jokey’ fake comments from Abu Qatada, who is accused of having links to al-Qaeda, in a party newsletter.

The Liberal Democrat, who represents Morpeth Stobhill on Northumberland County Council, made the reference in relation to plans by Barratt David Wilson Homes and Tees Valley Housing for up to 396 homes at a site south of the A196.

The Labour group has called on him to apologise for the remarks, but Coun Lindley has hit back, saying he is ‘pleased’ with the publicity as local efforts continue to oppose the application.

In the Focus newsletter, a picture of Qatada is accompanied by a short piece under the headline ‘Abu Qatada writes from Qatar’.

It says: ‘I hear developers are targeting Stobhill for large scale ‘Executive Housing’. This makes me chortle, Western Dogs, and takes my mind off my own minor problems.

‘Will the Telford Bridge seize up? Will you build the Stobhill-Loansdean road?! What larks.’

Grant Davey, leader of the county council’s ruling Labour group, said: “I’m astonished that Coun Lindley seems to think this is all a joke. It shows a significant lack of judgement on his part and I’m hoping his Liberal Democrat colleagues can make him see how completely inappropriate and offensive his comments are.

“Morpeth residents are entitled to expect better from Councillor Lindley and he should be respectful of the people he represents.”

In response, Coun Lindley said: “This was simply a jokey, light-hearted way of highlighting the issue and it’s sad that Labour have resorted to cheap political points scoring.

“I’m actually pleased with the publicity because hopefully more people will become aware of how inappropriate these plans are and submit objections to the county council.”