Corbyn sets election tone, targeting British establishment

A combination of pictures created in London on April 18, 2017 shows British Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May (L) speaking at a press conference during a European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 9, 2017 and Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (R) speaking on the fourth day of the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool, north west England on September 28, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2017

Corbyn sets election tone, targeting British establishment

LONDON: Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Thursday he would defeat a “cosy cartel” at the heart of British politics, casting himself as the anti-establishment challenger in a snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May.
The pledge, to be delivered via higher taxes on the wealthy and a crackdown on powerful corporations, set the tone for a campaign in which the veteran left-winger will try to defy opinion polls that point to a heavy defeat.
Battling to assert control over his own divided Labour Party as well as to convince the country at large, he sought to tap into widespread voter frustration with the political elite.
“It is the establishment versus the people and it is our historic duty to make sure that the people prevail,” Corbyn told party supporters in central London.
“We don’t accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax-dodgers.”
Conservative leader May sprang a major surprise on Tuesday by calling a June 8 election, three years ahead of schedule, to capitalize on a dramatic collapse in support for Labour and win a stronger mandate to boost her in complex divorce talks with the European Union.
While she tries to focus the debate on Brexit, Corbyn is looking to harness a powerful anti-establishment mood revealed by last year’s EU referendum and echoed in the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump during last year’s US election campaign.
“How dare they crash the economy with their recklessness and greed, and then punish those who had nothing to do with it?” he said, referring to the 2007-9 financial crisis.
“The British people know that they are the true wealth creators, held back by a system rigged for the wealth extractors.”
He made only a passing reference to Brexit, widely described as Britain’s biggest challenge since World War Two, saying he wanted to focus on life after leaving the EU.
“(May) will try to downplay the issues that affect people’s lives every day and instead turn the election into an ego trip about her own failing leadership and the machinations of the coming negotiations in Brussels,” he said.
Playing to simmering public anger about stagnant wages and businesses that pay low taxes, Corbyn said he would scrap planned cuts to corporation tax and reverse tax breaks for wealthy individuals.
“We will not longer allow those at the top to leech off those who bust their guts on zero-hours contracts, or those forced to make sacrifices to pay their mortgage or pay their rent,” he said.
“Instead of the country’s wealth being hidden in tax havens, we will put it in the hand of the people.”
The political system was biased in favor of large companies, he said. “It is these rules that have allowed a cosy cartel to rig the system in favor of a few powerful and wealthy individuals and corporations.”
Poll gap
Last year’s vote to leave the EU split Labour’s traditional supporter base, which is divided between typically pro-EU inner city voters, especially in London, and working-class voters in less affluent areas who voted for Brexit.
Corbyn, who voted to leave the EU’s predecessor in 1975 but supported ‘Remain’ last year, has been criticized for muddling the party’s position on Brexit and failing to effectively challenge May’s push for a clean break with the bloc.
Corbyn denied a report published in The Times newspaper on Thursday which said his party could promise a public vote to approve the terms of Britain’s EU exit. In a statement his spokesman said such a policy would not be in their manifesto.
A YouGov opinion poll carried out after the election was called showed May’s Conservatives on 48 percent, with Labour trailing a distant second on 24 percent. By comparison, ahead of the 2015 general election, which the Conservatives won, polls showed the two parties were roughly level.
Analysis of polling data conducted by The Times newspaper showed May could win a landslide majority of 114 seats, up from 12 last time around.
May, who also backed staying in the EU but has since embraced the notion of life outside the bloc, is pitching her campaign on a promise of stable leadership to deliver a good deal for Britain from exit negotiations with Brussels.
If she can achieve a resounding election victory, that would limit the scope for parliament to block or water down her plan for Britain to quit the EU single market and to prioritise immigration control.


Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

Updated 30 October 2020

Two accomplices in Kenya’s Westgate attack jailed for 33 and 18 years

  • Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants
  • The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital

NAIROBI: A Kenyan court Friday handed prison terms of 33 and 18 years respectively to two men accused of conspiring with the Al-Shabab extremists who attacked Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, killing 67 people.

Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa, both 31, were found guilty on October 7 of conspiring with and supporting the four assailants from the Somalia-based extremist group who died in what was then Kenya’s worst terrorist attack in 15 years.

The accused asked the judge for leniency, saying they had already served seven years behind bars and had family to care for.

“Despite mitigation by their defense lawyers on their innocence, the offense committed was serious, devastating, destructive, that called for a punishment by the court,” Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi told a Nairobi courtroom.

He sentenced the men to 18 years for conspiracy and 18 for supporting extremists, but ordered they serve both terms together. Abdi was also given an additional 15 years for two counts of possessing extremist propaganda material on his laptop.

He will serve 26 years and Mustafa 11, taking into account their pre-trial detention.

The convicted men were in regular contact with the attackers who at midday on September 21, 2013, stormed the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital and began throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and business owners.

A four-day siege ensued — much of it broadcast live on television — during which Kenyan security forces tried to flush out the gunmen and take back the high-end retail complex.

Although there was no specific evidence Abdi and Mustafa had provided material help, the court was satisfied their communication with the attackers amounted to supporting the armed rampage, and justified the guilty verdict for conspiracy.

The marathon trial began in January 2014. A third accused was acquitted of all charges.
The Westgate attack was claimed by Al-Shabab in retaliation for Kenya intervening military over the border in Somalia, where the extremist group was waging a bloody insurgency against the fragile central government.

Kenya is a major contributor of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which in 2011 drove Al-Shabab out of Mogadishu and other urban strongholds after a months-long offensive.

In a car the attackers drove to Westgate, police found evidence of newly-activated SIM cards used by the gunmen. Their communications were traced, including calls to Mohamed Ahmed Abdi and Hassan Hussein Mustafa.

A fourth defendant, Adan Mohammed Abdikadir, was acquitted in early 2019 for lack of evidence.

The Westgate attack was the deadliest incident of violent extremism on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which killed 213 people.

But since the assault on the shopping complex, Al-Shabab has perpetrated further atrocities in Kenya against civilian targets.

In April 2015, gunmen entered Garissa University and killed 148 people, almost all of them students. Many were shot point blank after being identified as Christians.

In January 2019, the militants struck Nairobi again, hitting the Dusit Hotel and surrounding offices and killing 21 people.

Al-Shabab warned in a January statement that Kenya “will never be safe” as long as its troops were stationed in Somalia, and threatened further attacks on tourists and US interests.

That same month, Al-Shabab attacked a US military base in northeast Kenya in a cross-border raid, killing three Americans and destroying a number of aircraft.