Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Jeremy Corbyn 'tried to keep cost of controversial Tunisia wreath laying trip cheap to avoid declaring it'

Leaked emails reveal opposition leader sought to keep costs of trip low to avoid declaration rules

A photo posted on the Facebook page by Palestinian Embassy in Tunisia of Jeremy Corbyn attending a wreath-laying ceremony in front of a plaque honouring the founder of Black September on October 14, 2014. Facebook
A photo posted on the Facebook page by Palestinian Embassy in Tunisia of Jeremy Corbyn attending a wreath-laying ceremony in front of a plaque honouring the founder of Black September on October 14, 2014. Facebook

Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn kept a controversial wreath-laying trip to Tunisia low budget to avoid declaring it, a leaked email suggests.

The Labour leader was criticised after images emerged of him in a Tunis cemetery in 2014 holding a wreath close to the graves of Salah Khalaf the founder of Black September, the group behind the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972, and Atef Bseiso, the man responsible for the atrocity.

Also at the ceremony was Maher Al Taher, the leader-in-exile of the proscribed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Mr Corbyn became Labour leader the following year.

Despite being cleared last year of failing to declare the trip, which was paid for by the Tunisian authorities, on the grounds it did not cross parliament’s threshold of £660, leaked emails appear to show the leader purposely sought to keep the cost of the trip low.

He escaped breaking the rules and having to declare the visit by just £4 after claiming his two-day stay in a five-star hotel with flights cost just £656.

The emails show a conversation between Mr Corbyn and his office where he discusses keeping costs down.

In the emails seen by political website Guido Fawkes, he wrote: “It sounds alright but will need to be very clear who is paying for it as I will have to declare anything over £660, unless thy [sic] can keep it cheap. If declared has to be referred to by debates etc.”

Mr Corbyn was never able to produce the actual costings of the trip but claimed he stayed in a standard class room at the Hotel Le Palace, in the luxury beach resort of Gammarth, cost £130. Rooms at the hotel range from £65 to £1,700 a night.

He said he flew business class with Tunisair and returned on an economy flight costing £410 in total the additional costs were incurred with airport transfers and meals.

Last year the parliamentary ethics watchdog cleared Mr Corbyn of breaking Commons rules by not declaring 16 trips – including the Tunisia visit - between 2011 and 2014.

Under the rules MPs must declare overseas trips costing over £660 which are paid for by other organisations.

He apologised for one breached when he visited New York with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The parliamentary watchdog launched an investigation into him last summer after receiving complaints from three Conservative MPs over controversial trips he made prior to becoming the opposition leader.

Labour Party officials claim the leaked emails show Mr Corbyn was ensuring his staff were adhering to parliamentary rules.

“What the email shows is Jeremy Corbyn ensuring his staff follow the rules for declaring trips,” a party spokesperson said.

“The email does not in any way advocate avoiding declaring the trip.”

Tory MPs claim the emails highlight Mr Corbyn was aware of the controversial nature of the trip.

Last year Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, raised an eyebrow at the cost claiming he was “sceptical”.

Writing in a Left-wing newspaper, Mr Corbyn reported on the speeches made by members of PFLP at the Tunis conference. “The conference was welcomed by the President of Tunisia Dr Moncef Marzouki and heard opening speeches from Palestinian groups including Fatah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as well as solidarity from the Turkish parliament and international support,” he wrote.

Mr Corbyn has also been picture with the PFLP’s Leila Khaled who also took part in Black September as well as an operation to sabotage a passenger jet by blowing it up on a runway.

The group also carried out targeted assassinations of Arab officials across Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.

Updated: April 5, 2019 03:57 PM

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