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Extremist attack takes center stage in UK campaign

By JONATHAN POWELL | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-12-03 09:42

A vigil was held in London on Monday morning in honor of the victims of the London Bridge attack, and the members of the emergency services and the public who confronted a knifeman whose actions left two dead and three injured.

A man lights candles in front of placards and tributes to victims on London Bridge in London, Britain December 2, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Usman Khan, 28, a convicted terrorist, was shot dead by police on Friday, after fatally stabbing two Cambridge University graduates-Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25-at a prisoner rehabilitation event.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan were among those who attended the remembrance service at Guildhall Yard.

The Ministry of Justice is urgently reviewing the system that allows convicted terrorists such as Khan to be released on license.

As a result of that review, on Sunday police arrested a 34-year-old man, reported to be Nazam Hussain-who went to prison with Usman Khan in 2012 for plotting to build a terrorist training camp in Kashmir. He was arrested in Stokeon-Trent on suspicion of the preparation of a terrorist act.

After a one-day pause out of respect for victims, Friday's attack dominated the political scene as the Dec 12 election nears, shifting the focus from Brexit and the National Health Service to issues of security and criminal justice.

Britain's political leaders contested who is responsible for the early release of the extremist Khan in December 2018, after serving half of his sentence.

Johnson blamed Khan's freedom on changes in sentencing rules made by the last Labour Party government before Johnson's Conservatives took power in 2010. He promised to toughen sentencing laws.

"I think it is repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that's why we are going to change the law," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Ed Davey, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, told Sky News that the prime minister was misleading the public about the current law regarding the early release of prisoners.

"Either he's incompetent and doesn't know the law, or he's deliberately misleading people when we've got a tragedy on our hands, and I'm afraid, either way, it does not look good for the prime minister," Davey said.

Labour leader Corbyn accused the Conservatives of trying to provide security "on the cheap" and said he doesn't necessarily agree that all terrorist prisoners should be required to serve their full terms.

The former chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales later criticized what he described as political point scoring in the aftermath of the attack.

Nick Hardwick told the BBC on Monday there needed to be an intelligent and considered examination of the whole criminal justice system. He said it had been neglected and that the "chickens had come home to roost".

"The cuts and reorganizations of the prisons and probation service have made them much less able to do their jobs and keep the rest of us safe," Hardwick said.

JONATHAN POWELL in London

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