A 25-year-old man appeared on Thursday before magistrates in London to face charges of murder and terror relating to other MPs following the death of veteran Conservative MP Sir David Amess in Essex last week.
Ali Harbi Ali, from north London, appeared before senior district judge Paul Goldspring at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London, having been charged by police earlier with the murder of Amess and preparation of terrorist acts.
The case has triggered significant debate both about MPs’ security and the effectiveness of efforts to combat radicalisation among some young Muslims.
Mr Ali, who wore a grey sweatshirt and sweatpants, spoke only to confirm his name, age and address at the short hearing. He entered no plea to the charges and will make another appearance at the Old Bailey on Friday.
Judge Goldspring told Mr Ali he had no power, in light of the charges, to grant him bail and remanded him in custody.
The charge of preparing acts of terror alleges that Mr Ali engaged in “reconnaissance of locations of targets to attack, including addresses associated with members of parliament and the Houses of Parliament”.
The court heard that those charges related to two other, unnamed, MPs.
Matt Jukes, the Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner for specialist operations, had earlier announced the charges, saying they were a “significant milestone” but that work on the case would “continue apace”.
He also urged the media not to speculate on the case to avoid prejudicing the trial under the UK’s strict contempt of court laws. “I understand the huge level of public interest in this case, but now a charge has been brought, it is vitally important that everyone exercises restraint when commenting on it publicly, to ensure future court proceedings are not prejudiced in any way,” Mr Jukes said.
Nick Price, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s special crime and counter-terrorism division, said the agency had authorised the charges against Mr Ali. “We will submit to the court that this murder has a terrorist connection, namely that it had both religious and ideological motivations,” he said in a statement.
“He has also been charged with the preparation of terrorist acts,” Mr Price said of Ali. “This follows a review of the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police in its investigation.”
Amess, who had been MP for Southend West since 1997, died at the scene of a regular meeting with constituents at Leigh-on-Sea on October 15th. Police made an arrest at the scene. Officers subsequently successfully asked magistrates for a longer time to question Mr Ali and had until Friday to decide on any charges.
Amess was the second MP to be killed near a meeting with constituents in just over five years. Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered by a right-wing extremist during the Brexit referendum campaign in June 2016.
Home secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday announced that analysts had raised the terrorism threat level facing MPs to substantial, in line with the wider threat level for the UK as a whole. She urged members to take advantage of the security provision being made available to them.
Members of parliament have expressed concern following Friday’s attack both about their security when meeting constituents and the risk that any hardening of security measures for such meetings risked isolating them from voters.
Mr Jukes expressed his “deepest condolences” to the family of Amess. “Sir David’s dedication to his family, his constituents and his community, and his positive impact on the lives of so many has shone through,” he said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021