Poplar MP tells court: 'I fled home when brother said I was possessed'

Poplar & Limehouse MP Apsana Begum at home

Poplar & Limehouse MP Apsana Begum at home - Credit: Zoom

The Poplar and Limehouse MP on trial for alleged council housing fraud wept in court as she described the moment she called police and fled home.

Apsana Begum recalled running out of the house when police arrived after an argument with her brother when he claimed she was "possessed".

She had previously gone to Limehouse police station in May 2013 out of fear of becoming "the victim of honour-based violence".

An argument erupted at the family home in Poplar when she said her brother locked her in the living room.

“He thought I was possessed and said he wanted me to get checked," she told Snaresbrook Crown Court on the fourth day of her trial.

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“He wanted me to see an imam because I wasn’t registering their concern about Ehtashamul (ex-husband Ehtashamul Haque).

“I refused and said I’m not under a spell. This is my choice.

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"But he started reciting the Quran and had his hand over my head.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen next and thought he might beat me up.”

Begum said she managed to call 999 and fled with only her handbag when officers arrived.

A court clerk passed her tissues as she spoke of collecting her belongings, which had been put in black bin bags outside the house.

Her family disapproved of her relationship with Mr Haque, who is now a Tower Hamlets councillor, she told the jury. He was seven years her elder and been married twice before.

Begum denies three charges of housing fraud against Tower Hamlets Council - she is accused of withholding information about her living circumstances between January 2013 and March 2016 to jump the housing queue.

The council, which brought the prosecution, says it cost almost £64,000 to house someone else on the waiting list in another property.

The 31-year-old is accused of failing to disclose that she was no longer living in overcrowded accommodation.

Begum rang the authority for council tax purposes and believed it would share the information, the court was told.

She claims Mr Haque was “controlling and coercive” and had taken over her affairs.

A transcript was read out in court from an interview with the council’s fraud investigations team in January 2020 — two months after she became an MP — when she said: “I was escaping from an abusive situation.

"He told me he was handling my affairs and had my bank details and was making transfers and all that.”

Evidence showed applications for houses were made while she was living with Mr Haque, but she denied making the bids.

The prosecution says Begum attempted to gain social housing at first by saying she lived in an overcrowded three-bedroom house with her family and did not have a bedroom of her own, which made her a higher priority on the waiting list.

But a social housing application made in 2009 by Begum’s aunt showed the house had four bedrooms, not three.

The MP, who sits on the Commons education committee, won her seat for Labour at the 2019 general election with a majority of almost 29,000.

The trial continues.

READ MORE: Trial of Poplar and Limehouse MP opens on 'housing fraud' charges

READ MORE: Apsana Begum's ex-husband may be behind housing bids, trial hears

READ MORE: MP reported ex-husband to police for alleged 'harassment', trial hears

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