It has been a strange, disorientating and upsetting few months for Gita Sahgal. The former head of Amnesty International's gender unit was suspended in February after a very public and acrimonious dispute with her bosses. Two weeks ago she left it altogether. Her departure was provoked, according to a statement by Amnesty, by "irreconcilable differences".

The row – over Amnesty's links with Islamist pressure groups – has led to a succession of negative headlines for a body unused to such bad publicity. According to Sahgal, the affair was symptomatic of an organisation that has lost its moral bearings and risks alienating whole swathes of liberal sympathisers.

In her first newspaper interview since leaving the charity altogether, Sahgal delivers a withering critique of her former employers, describing the modern Amnesty's leadership as suffering from "ideological bankruptcy" and"misogyny". Although Amnesty is still one of the best known advocates of women's rights in the world, Sahgal told the Observer that an "atmosphere of terror" prevailed inside the organisation in which debate is suppressed and staff are cowed into accepting the prevailing line.

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