UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

Jeremy Hunt, one of the two candidates vying to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May said he would seek a better deal from the EU to leave on October 31. (Reuters)
Updated 24 June 2019

UK PM candidate Hunt: Boris Johnson is a ‘coward’ for avoiding debates on Brexit

  • Jeremy Hunt: It was disrespectful for Boris Johnson to turn down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate
  • Hunt says candidates should explain their Brexit positions

LONDON: Jeremy Hunt, one of the two candidates vying to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, said on Monday that rival Boris Johnson was a coward for avoiding public head-to-head debates on what to do about Brexit.
“On the question of debates, he is being a coward,” Foreign Secretary Hunt said. “It is cowardice not to appear in head-to-head debates.”
Hunt, 52, said it was disrespectful for Johnson to have turned down the opportunity for a head-to-head debate on Sky television.
“People need to know what you’re going to do and you need to answer those questions,” Hunt said. “I promise Boris Johnson the fight of his life and he’s going to have that and he’s going to lose.”
Johnson, 55, is the favorite to win a vote of 160,000 Conservative Party members who will decide who will be the next prime minister. Betting markets give him a 79 percent implied probability of winning the top job, down from 92 percent last week.
He has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on October 31 — with or without a deal — while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and socialist Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
Early on Friday, police were called to Johnson’s home after neighbors heard a loud altercation between him and his girlfriend. Police said there was no cause for police action.
The Guardian newspaper, which first reported the story, said an unidentified neighbor had heard Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, screaming followed by “slamming and banging.” At one point, Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out of my flat.”
Johnson declined to answer questions about the incident at a hustings event in Birmingham on Saturday.
Hunt said the personal life of Johnson was irrelevant but that the candidates should explain their Brexit positions — and specifically what would a new leader do if lawmakers tried to sink a new government heading toward a no-deal Brexit.
“If parliament takes no-deal off the table before Oct. 31, will Boris call a general election?” Hunt said. “I think a general election would be catastrophic.”
Hunt said he would seek a better deal from the EU to leave on Oct. 31 and would, if absolutely necessary, leave without a deal. If parliament took a no-deal Brexit off the table, he intimated there would have to be delay.
“In that situation, you would have to carry on negotiating,” Hunt said. “I want to leave by Oct. 31 but if parliament stops it the prime minister has to obey the law.”
Johnson repeated on Monday that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.
“We are going to come out of the EU on October 31,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph. “This time we are not going to bottle it.”
Like Hunt, Johnson promised lower taxes if he wins the top job.
When asked the naughtiest thing he had ever done, Hunt said: “When I was backpacking through India, I once had a Bhang Lassi — which is a kind of cannabis lassi — that’s the naughtiest thing I am prepared to confess to on this program.”

Bin Laden anthrax scientist under house arrest after jail

Updated 22 November 2019

Bin Laden anthrax scientist under house arrest after jail

  • Sufaat, 55, recruited militants, tried making biological weapon agent near Afghan airport

KUALA LUMPUR: A US-educated biochemist with links to Al-Qaeda and Daesh was on Wednesday released from prison by Malaysian authorities.

Yazid Sufaat, who recruited militants for the terror groups and tried to help Osama bin Laden develop anthrax for use as a biological weapon, will remain under heavy police watch.

The 55-year-old walked free from the Simpang Renggam penitentiary in Johor and was sent to his home in Bandar Baru Ampang in Selangor, on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

He has been placed under house arrest and will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device, said Royal Malaysia Police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay. In addition, Sufaat would not be allowed to leave his home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. and had been barred from using the internet.

The scientist, who trained militants for the late terror group leader Bin Laden and spent several months trying to produce anthrax in a laboratory near Kandahar airport in Afghanistan, has been jailed three times in the past 17 years on various terrorism-related charges.

He was first arrested in December 2001 and sentenced to seven years in prison. In 2013, the former military officer was convicted of recruiting members for Daesh and received a four-year jail term, and in 2017 he was arrested again for Al-Qaeda recruitment among fellow inmates.

In the 1990s, Sufaat joined Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian extremist group led by Indonesian militants. In 2000, he acquired four tons of ammonium nitrate for a series of foiled bomb attacks in Singapore.

Months before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, he hosted meetings for senior Al-Qaeda members, during which they “spoke about the possibility of hijacking planes and crashing them,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report.

Dr. Danial Yusof, who leads a research unit on extremism at the International Islamic University Malaysia, told Arab News that the decision by the Prevention of Terrorism Board (POTB) to release Sufaat came after an evaluation process that included agencies such as the Royal Malaysia Police, prisons department and the Ministry of Home Affairs, and which put “national security as primary consideration for release.”

Sufaat will be required to report to local police twice a week and can only leave the vicinity of his house with written permission from the Selangor police chief.

According to Yusof, the measures were aimed at preventing Sufaat from reoffending and carrying out further recruitment.

Meanwhile, he said a major challenge for Malaysia’s deradicalization and rehabilitation program, would be the repatriation of around 140 former Malaysian followers of Daesh who are expected to return from Syria and Iraq.

With many of them being women and children, it would be a “test for Malaysia’s compassionate approach in counterviolence and extremism,” he added.

Yusof noted that Sufaat’s case could serve as a “reference point” for deradicalization of the individuals and their reintegration
into society.

However, Nasir Abbas, a former senior member of JI who is now involved in the Indonesian government’s deradicalization program, told Arab News on Thursday that rehabilitation efforts had so far failed to change Sufaat. 

“He still wants to engage in violent jihad. I am sure that once he is free, he will still campaign his cause to ordinary people,” he said.