Liberals accused of dirty tricks in election campaign

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister John Howard, pictured, battled yesterday to contain a last-minute scandal ahead of weekend elections, after campaigners for his Liberal Party were exposed distributing pamphlets accusing the opposition of sympathizing with terrorists.

Howard supporters in a Sydney district were caught delivering leaflets attributed to a bogus Islamic organisation, which urged voters to support the opposition Labor Party because it approved of forgiving terrorists involved in the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.

The tactic was condemned by all sides after it was splashed across morning newspapers and led news bulletins yesterday. Muslim leaders accused the perpetrators of trying to inject racism into the election campaign.

Opinion polls show Mr Howard’s government faces an uphill battle to retain power in tomorrow’s elections, and the pamphlet incident was a serious embarrassment that overshadowed the prime minister’s last major campaign speech.

Mr Howard immediately sought to distance himself and his party from the scandal.

The pamphlet, which shows a forged Labor logo, said: “We gratefully acknowledge Labor’s support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings.”

The attacks killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

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