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Ex-mayor defends 'passport' minister; JIM SHERA JOINS IN BID TO END KEITH VAZ 'WITCH-HUNT'.

Byline: LAURA CAPEWELL

RUGBY'S former Mayor Jim Shera has joined senior politicians to defend Keith Vaz, the minister caught up in the Peter Mandelson passport affair.

Cllr Shera (Labour, Benn) is one of 11 Asian and black community leaders who have expressed "unease and hurt" at what they claim is a witch-hunt against the Minister for Europe. Cllr Shera is a signatory to a statement issued on House of Lords paper defending Mr Vaz over his alleged involvement with the Hinduja brothers' passport affair, which brought about Peter Mandelson's resignation.

Cllr Shera said yesterday: "Keith Vaz is a person who is a key role model to all the Asian and black communities and Britain's first Asian minister.

"We strongly believe he should be left alone until the inquiries are complete."

The letter states: "We are writing to express our profound disquiet at the ferocious witch-hunt that has been conducted against Keith Vaz MP.

"We feel a deep sense of unease and hurt over the fact that Britain's first elected Asian minister is being subjected to an obsessive campaign of denigration and we fear for its long-term impact on the good community relations we have fought so hard to achieve and the aspirations of young Asian and black people who wish to go into public life.

"We find it astonishing that Keith Vaz should be pilloried for having given service to the community and strongly resent the implied slur that it casts on all Asians and black people in the UK."

The document is signed by members of the House of Lords and leaders of national black and Asian community groups.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 8, 2001
Words:270
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