June 2019
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Boris Johnson wins Brexit case hounding his leadership bid
London: Former UK foreign minister Boris Johnson''s bid to succeed Theresa May as prime minister received a big boost Friday when a London court quashed his summons to answer charges that he lied during the Brexit referendum campaign. His lawyers claimed that the private prosecution was "politically motivated" and had no precedent in common law. The two-judge High Court panel said it was persuaded by their case. The ruling was issued after nearly four hours of hearings into whether Johnson knowingly mislead the nation while arguing in favour of Britain''s split from the European Union during the 2016 referendum campaign.

Johnson was both a member of parliament and mayor of London in the run-up to the highly contentious vote. His most famous claim was that Britain would no longer have to make weekly payments of 350 million pounds (USD 445 million, 395 million euros) to Brussels. The case against him argued that he had committed the criminal offence of misconduct in a public office by using his position to knowingly make a false claim. A district judge at the lower Westminster Magistrates Court in London, after hearing the arguments, decided to summons Johnson to court. The former minister successfully appealed to England''s High Court to overturn the decision.

"We are quashing the decision of the district judge to issue the summonses," judge Michael Supperstone ruled. The decision left Marcus Ball -- a 29-year-old businessman who crowdfunded to pay for the proceedings against one of Britain''s most famous politicians -- bitterly disappointed and contemplating an appeal. "We''ve just given the green light to every politician to lie to us about our money for ever. That''s a terrible idea that I refuse to accept," Ball told reporters outside the court in London. "Mr Johnson MP, you do not have the right to lie to the public about how their money is being spent. Go on television and tell everybody what the truth is." The 350 million pounds membership price tag represented Britain''s gross contribution to the 28-nation EU bloc.

But the net figure is much smaller because it also includes a budget rebate from Brussels as well as payments to Britain''s public sector from EU coffers. The official pro-Brexit campaign emblazoned the 350 million pounds total on its red touring bus during the 2016 EU referendum. The image became one of the lingering symbols of a campaign that left Britain as divided as it had been before the vote. Johnson''s lawyer Adrian Darbishire argued on Friday that the case was designed to stop Brexit from the start. "This case, on the face of it, represents political origins... in an area of public life that has never been subject to a court of law," he argued. "Any form of political motivation is anathema to criminal proceedings."

The two-judge panel overturned the summons. "It was the conclusion of the court that we were persuaded by Mr Darbishire," said judge Anne Rafferty. "This quashes the summons," she said on revealing their ruling. May stepped down as the Conservative Party''s leader on Friday and formally triggered the race for a successor -- currently being contested by Johnson and 10 other MPs -- but will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen. The entire process is expected to be over by the end of next month. Johnson issued no immediate comment after the ruling and has said little about the case. But he won support from other Brexit-backing ministers who are rivals for the premiership.

"Very glad to see the court case against Boris Johnson thrown out," interior minister Sajid Javid wrote on Twitter. Johnson''s campaign is built on the promise of getting out of the EU -- with or without a deal -- when the twice-delayed Brexit deadline arrived on October 31. The pitch is popular among more right-wing rank-and-file Conservatives across the country who will pick the winner from two finalists selected by MPs.

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