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‘Death to Traitors’

by AFP
A prison van transports Mair from court. Daniel Leal-Olivas—AFP

A prison van transports Mair from court. Daniel Leal-Olivas—AFP

British M.P. murder suspect identifies himself in court as ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain.’

British lawmaker Jo Cox’s alleged killer ranted against “traitors” in court Saturday, as E.U. referendum campaigning was suspended for a third day in tribute to the slain M.P.

“Death to traitors, freedom for Britain,” 52-year-old Thomas Mair said when asked to give his name at Westminster Magistrates Court in London after being charged with murder, Britain’s Press Association reported. Mair, who was handcuffed and wearing a grey tracksuit, repeated the phrase when asked again but then remained silent when asked to provide his date of birth and address.

He was remanded in custody until his next appearance on Monday at the higher Old Bailey court in London, England’s central criminal court, and a psychiatric report has been requested.

Mair is also charged with grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence and possession of an offensive weapon. He is being held at the top-security Belmarsh Prison in southeast London.

A 77-year-old man remains in hospital after being injured trying to help Cox during the attack.

Cox, 41, is survived by her husband Brendan and their children Lejla, five, and three-year-old Cuillin. Cox’s family visited the floral tributes left in Birstall, the town in northern England where she was attacked on Thursday.

“For now, our family is broken but it will mend in time and we will never let Jo leave our lives,” her sister Kim Leadbeater told well-wishers. “She will live on through Brendan, through us and through her truly wonderful children who will always know what an utterly amazing woman their mother was. She was a human being. She was perfect.”

A member of the opposition Labour Party and former aid worker, Cox was an advocate for refugee rights and immigration and was campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union. Both sides in the deeply divisive campaign ahead of Thursday’s referendum on E.U. membership have cancelled speeches and leafleting events amid calls for a less acrimonious political debate.

She was shot and stabbed in the street in what police called a “targeted” daylight attack in her constituency in Yorkshire as she was arriving for a meeting with local residents. Although the motive is undetermined, some politicians and commentators have pointed to the heated referendum debate, where sensitive issues like national identity and immigration have featured prominently.

British M.P.s have been recalled to parliament, which was in recess ahead of the referendum, for a special session of tributes to Cox on Monday. The murder, the first of a British member of parliament since 1990, has sent shockwaves around the world.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday phoned Cox’s husband Brendan to offer his condolences. “The president noted that the world is a better place because of her selfless service to others, and that there can be no justification for this heinous crime,” the White House said in a statement.

Eyewitness Hichem Ben Abdallah, 56, told AFP on Friday that he heard two shots and saw Cox on the ground. “Her face was full of blood,” said Ben Abdallah, who campaigned alongside her before she was elected to parliament for the first time last year. “I think her flame will carry on,” he said, adding: “I hope we learn lessons from this.”

A fund created in Cox’s memory by her friends and family has raised more than £400,000 for charities close to her heart. The money will support the Royal Voluntary Service, which helps combat loneliness in her constituency; the Hope Not Hate anti-extremism group and the White Helmets volunteer emergency workers in Syria.

Just hours before the attack, two polls had shown the “Leave” camp moving into the lead in the referendum campaign. Following the murder, stock markets and the value of the pound rebounded sharply and some financial analysts said this was because the chances of “Remain” winning the referendum had increased.

The WhatUKThinks average of the last six opinion polls currently gives 52 percent for “Leave” and 48 percent for “Remain,” excluding undecided voters.

The International Monetary Fund has warned Brexit could deal the British economy a “negative and substantial” blow and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday suggested Cameron was trying to “blackmail” Europe with the referendum.

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