A former justice minister has apologised for the “significant upset and concern” caused by his defence of fellow MP Imran Ahmad Khan following his conviction for sexually assaulting a teenage boy.
Tory MP Crispin Blunt removed a post from his website and Twitter feed in which he had claimed Khan was the victim of a “dreadful miscarriage of justice”, after the Wakefield MP was found guilty on Monday of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 2008.
In a statement, Mr Blunt said he had decided to retract his statement and insisted “I do not condone any form of abuse and I strongly believe in the independence and integrity of the justice system”.
Khan was thrown out of the Tory Party following the verdict and Mr Blunt had come under pressure from the Conservative hierarchy to withdraw his initial statement.
He also offered his resignation as chairman of an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on LGBT issues following protests from MPs about his comments.
Mr Blunt said: “On reflection I have decided to retract my statement defending Imran Ahmad Khan.
“I am sorry that my defence of him has been a cause of significant upset and concern not least to victims of sexual offences.
“To be clear I do not condone any form of abuse and I strongly believe in the independence and integrity of the justice system.
“It is a particularly difficult time for LGBT+ rights across the world and my statement risks distracting the APPG for Global LGBT+ Rights from its important purpose.
“I have today offered the officers my resignation so a new chair can be found to continue the work of the group with full force.”
The retraction follows a statement published on Mr Blunt’s website on Monday which described the jury’s decision in Khan’s case was “nothing short of an international scandal”.
A jury at Southwark Crown Court took about five hours to decide Khan, 48, was guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy, who is now 29.
The court heard how Khan, a gay Muslim elected to Parliament in 2019, forced the then-teenager to drink gin and tonic, dragged him upstairs, pushed him on to a bed and asked him to watch pornography before the attack at a house in Staffordshire in January 2008.
But Mr Blunt, who was at the London court on Monday, said the case “relied on lazy tropes about LGBT+ people” and argued the result had “dreadful wider implications” for LGBT Muslims “around the world”.
The Tory MP said: “I am utterly appalled and distraught at the dreadful miscarriage of justice that has befallen my friend and colleague Imran Ahmad Khan, MP for Wakefield since December 2019.”
Khan’s legal team said he plans to appeal against the conviction.
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