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Merkel calls for more respect after MP murder

June 17, 2016

Angela Merkel has warned against "radicalized" political speech in the aftermath of British MP Jo Cox's murder. UK Prime Minister Cameron and Labour leader Corbyn have held a vigil in the town where Cox was murdered.

England Trauer um Politikerin Jo Cox
Image: DW/H. Demisse

Speaking in Berlin on Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called the death of popular pro-Europe MP Jo Cox "terrible" and "dramatic" and urged for more moderate campaign language ahead of the UK's referendum on EU membership.

She said the lesson to take away from the Labour MP's murder is that "we must treat each other with respect, even when we have different political views."

"The exaggerations and radicalization of part of the language do not help to foster an atmosphere of respect," she told a press conference, urging politicians to consider their choice of words and to "draw limits" when arguing and campaigning.

Deutschland Berlin PK Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel
Merkel urged all sides to tone down their referendum rhetoricImage: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

"Otherwise the radicalization will become unstoppable," Merkel warned. "Politics cannot solve everything, but politics can contribute to the way debates are carried out."

Henriette Reker, the mayor of Cologne who survived a politically-motivated stabbing last year while campaigning, said Jo Cox's death "has really affected me."

"Xenophobic slogans inevitably lead to violence. We all bear the responsibility that such a situation never happens again in Germany or Europe," Reker said.

Cameron and Corbyn lead vigil

In a show of political unitiy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the northern village of Birstall on Friday to lay flowers and pay tribute to their fallen colleague- one day after Cox was killed.

"Where we see hatred, where we find division, where we see intolerance, we must drive it out of our politics and out of our public life and out of our communities," Cameron said during the vigil.

Following a request from the Labour party, Cameron agreed to recall parliament from recess in order to honor Cox on Monday, announced Corbyn.

Both the "Remain" and "Leave" camps on both sides of the EU referendum debate agreed to suspend campaigning on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The "Leave the EU" campaign said a planned rally on Sunday will still take place.

Cameron's Conservative party said Friday that it would not contest the constituency in an upcoming by-election out of respect for Cox.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speak to the media in Birstall, West Yorkshire
Corbyn (L) and Cameron (R) held a vigil in Bristall in a show of solidarity for Jo CoxImage: picture-alliance/empics/PA Wire/D. Lawson

Attacker's ties to white supremacy

On Thursday, the 41-year-old mother-of-two was shot in the face three times and attacked with a knife outside a library in her constituency.

Her alleged attacker, identified as 52-year-old Thomas Batley, allegedly had links to a white supremacist organization in the US, reported the Southern Poverty Law Center on Friday. The civil rights group said the suspect purchased a manual from the National Alliance, which included instructions on how to build a pistol.

The attack on Cox came one week before Great Britain heads to the polls to decide on its EU membership. Cox supported remaining in the EU and was a known defender of the EU's freedom-of-movement rules as well as an advocate for the UK taking in child refugees from Syria.

rs/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)