Ted Stevens' criminal trial starts

Stevens on trial for 7 felonies

Jury selection begins today in the trial of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, accused of lying about thousands of dollars in gifts from a corrupt oil service firm (Veco).

Senator Ted Stevens

"I've urged Alaskans not to make a judgment about this situation until all the evidence is in," Stevens said on Saturday.

A 7-count indictment says Veco and its chief executive officer, Bill Allen, provided home improvements, including a first floor, a garage, a first- and second-story wraparound deck, plumbing and wiring.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and bidding for re-election in November, is claiming he is innocent.

The 150 potential jurors are being questioned on their suitability for the trial, set to last a month.

Stevens is accused of failing to disclose over $250,000 of work done on his house free of charge by employees of the Veco oil company that normally builds pipelines and processing equipment.

Veco CEO Bill Allen, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges in May 2007, has previously testified that he arranged for employees of his company to assist Stevens with renovations to his house in Girdwood, Alaska.

Ted Stevens house

Stevens has pleaded not guilty, saying he has "never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a US senator".

He has called on people to reserve judgement until all the evidence is heard.

Stevens has continued to campaign since he was indicted in July.

"I have entered my plea and said I'm innocent of the charges. I think the trial will show that," Stevens said.

His Senate seat is up for grabs in November's election and polls suggest he is facing a tough battle against his Democratic challenger, Mark Begich, if he is to secure an eighth term.

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