LONDON (Reuters) – A man accused of stabbing to death British lawmaker David Amess at a church where he was meeting voters in October pleaded not guilty at a court hearing on Tuesday.
Ali Harbi Ali, 25, the son of an ex-media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia, is accused of repeatedly knifing Amess in a church hall where he was meeting voters in his constituency.
The suspect, who is charged with murder and preparing acts of terrorism, pleaded not guilty on both counts. He is due to stand trial in March next year.
The killing of 69-year-old Amess, a father of five children, five years after another British member of parliament was murdered on the street, prompted calls for better protection of lawmakers.
A member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party, he was attacked at the Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, northeast of London, and died there despite the efforts of paramedics.
British lawmakers regularly hold “surgeries”, or one-to-one meetings with voters in their constituencies, a tradition considered a bedrock of democracy. But with little or no security and an emphasis on access for all, surgeries can make lawmakers vulnerable.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by James Davey and Angus MacSwan)