Gurkha activists' fury over British minister's attack on cause campaigner Joanna Lumley

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London, Mar. 10 (ANI): British Defence Minister Kevan Jones came under fire after accusing Gurkha campaigner Joanna Lumley of "deathly silence" over the allegations that war veterans hoping to settle in UK are being forced to pay hundreds of pounds for legal advice in Nepal.

Gurkha campaigners came out in Lumley's defence saying that the minister was playing politics to muddy the British actress's name.

"It is disgraceful they are using politics to muddy her name after all she's done. It is a bit rich these allegations are being highlighted now - we raised them with the MoD three years ago," The Daily Express quoted Kieran O'Rourke, of the Gurkha Justice Campaign, as saying.

"Joanna will be appalled to know Gurkhas are being ripped off," he added.

Earlier, Jones has said that he was "irritated" over the fact that the actress, who led a victorious campaign in forcing a Government U-turn on Gurkha citizenship rights, had not spoken out following allegations that veterans' organisations in Nepal were extracting money from Gurkhas and then referring them to UK solicitors.

In evidence to a Commons committee on Tuesday, Jones said Justice Minister Lord Bach launched an inquiry after it emerged legal aid was being claimed for advising veterans, even though advice was freely available at an MoD-funded settlement office in Kathmandu.

Jones highlighted the alleged relationship between the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organisation and Howe and Co, a firm of solicitors which advised the campaign to extend the settlement rights of veterans.

"As I understand it, you go to Gaeso, a voluntary donation is made of about 500 pounds and you then get passed on to Howe and Co. I am not sure what the relationship is then," he said.

"Howe and Co were the solicitors arguing for the campaign, along with Joanna Lumley. Gaeso, I understand, organised her victory tour to Nepal," he added.

However, O'Rourke, a partner with Howe and Co, said: "We've never taken a penny from Gaeso, we're never taken a penny from a Gurkha." (ANI)

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