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Suspect in murder of British politician gives name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain" in court

The murder of Jo Cox, who has served as a British Labor party member of parliament since last year, has rattled Britain at a time of heightened political discourse, as the vote to stay or remain in the European Union looms large.

by VICE News
Jun 18 2016, 2:35pm

The man who has been charged with the murder of British Labor MP Jo Cox gave his name as "death to traitors, freedom for Britain" when he appeared in court on Saturday.

Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two young children, was shot and stabbed in the street by Thomas Mair in her electoral district in northern England on Thursday.

Her untimely death comes as tensions are running very high in Britain, which is set to vote next week on whether to remain in or leave the European Union. Cox was a vocal supporter of staying in the EU. Her murder has rattled the nation and puts next week's looming vote in limbo, particularly as both sides in the referendum have temporarily agreed to suspend campaigning.

Mair, 52, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London wearing a grey sweatshirt and trousers, Reuters reported. When a clerk asked him what his name was, Mair replied : "Death to traitors, freedom for Britain." When asked again, he calmly repeated, "My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain." He made no further comment in the 15-minute hearing, which was his first public appearance since his arrest in Birstall, a town in Yorkshire.

Related: British Labour politician Jo Cox killed in shooting near Leeds

Mair is charged with murder, causing grievous bodily harm and possession of a firearm and a knife. He will appear at London's Old Bailey court on Monday.

The murder of Cox has sparked debate in Britain, a country which has strict gun controls and where attacks on lawmakers are rare, about the heightened tempo of political discourse and the impact her death could have on the EU vote.

Mair had ties to a neo-Nazi group in the United States, and had bought guides on assembling homemade guns and explosives, according to a US-based civil rights watchdog that tracks hate groups.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published records showing that Mair was a "longtime supporter of the National Alliance" (NA), once known as the US's premier neo-Nazi organization.

Related: Suspected killer of British MP Jo Cox had ties to neo-Nazis in US

Mair reportedly spent more than $620 on books and literature from NA, including guides titled "Improvised Munitions Handbook," "Chemistry of Powder & Explosives," and "Incendiaries," according to receipts published by SPLC.

Media reports, citing witnesses, said the attacker had shouted out "Britain first" when he killed Cox, which is the name of a right-wing nationalist group that describes itself on its website as "a patriotic political party and street defence organisation".

Mair's apparent adherence to extremist ideology has also stoked the debate about how the media classifies so-called "lone wolf" attackers. Some critics of the way Mair was handled by the press say that tabloid papers are disinclined to use the word terrorist because he is white, casting him as "mentally disturbed."

The last British lawmaker to have been killed was Ian Gow, who died after an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb exploded under his car at his home in 1990.

Reuters contributed to this report