London

London mayor row: Cleric feels 'betrayed' by Conservatives

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Media captionThe PM says Labour's London mayoral candidate repeatedly appears with an IS supporter.

A London cleric who David Cameron described as a supporter of so-called Islamic State has told the BBC he attended Conservative events and feels betrayed by the party.

Mr Cameron criticised Labour's London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan on Wednesday for appearing with cleric Suliman Gani.

On the BBC's The World Tonight, Mr Gani said he felt "disheartened and betrayed" at being described this way.

Number 10 declined any further comment.

But at a Westminster press briefing on Wednesday, the prime minister's official spokeswoman said : "The point the prime minister was referring to was that, at events, this individual has spoken up in support of a range of things including the formation of Islamic State."

Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith previously described Mr Gani as "one of the most repulsive men in Britain".

Mr Gani, a community leader and imam from Tooting in south London, said on hearing this characterisation: "I was shocked - I couldn't believe it.

"I felt very disheartened and betrayed.

"I felt that this is hypocrisy, because I attended a Conservative Muslim Forum event invited by the Conservative candidate for Tooting... to encourage more Muslims to become Conservative councillors."

Image caption Suliman Gani, an imam from Tooting, denies he has ever supported so-called Islamic state

Of Mr Goldsmith, Mr Gani said "I met him in person, I shook his hand" and that he thought he was "a candidate to really seriously consider as mayor of London".

He also said he supported the Conservatives at the last election.

'Very extreme' comments

Mr Goldsmith insisted the cleric had a long record of "saying very extreme things".

Mr Gani vehemently denies he supports the terrorist group.

Throughout the mayoral campaign Mr Goldsmith has accused the Mr Khan, who is also the MP for Tooting, of "giving platforms and oxygen and even cover to people who are extremist".

Mr Khan maintains he has fought strongly against radical Islamists and has himself been a victim of their threats.

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