People ‘frightened’ to challenge Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s re-election, High Court hears
PUBLISHED: 16:21 06 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:30 06 February 2015
People have been “too frightened” to come forward over alleged electoral fraud in the Tower Hamlets election last year, a Labour party activist has told a High Court judge.
Retail analyst Debbie Simone said she joined three other voters in launching a court bid to overturn the re-election of Mayor Lutfur Rahman because others wanted to but were afraid.
The group of four, headed by campaigner Andy Erlam, who stood as a Tower Hamlets councillor on an anti-corruption ticket in the May 22 ballot, has mounted a challenge under the provisions of the 1983 Representation Of The People Act at a special High Court hearing in London.
Lawyers for the group of four have made a series of allegations – including “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.
Mr Rahman says there is “little if any” evidence of wrong-doing against him.
His lawyers have described the claims as “invention”, “exaggeration” and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”.
Claims are being analysed by Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey, a senior lawyer who is sitting as judge at a trial in the Election Court.
The hearing is expected to last several weeks.
Mr Mawrey has been asked to declare the result of a May 2014 mayoral election, which saw Mr Rahman elected for a second term, void and order a re-run.
A former leader of Tower Hamlets Council has told the judge how he thought that Mr Rahman had been “brainwashed” by members of a Muslim fundamentalist organisation before becoming Mayor.
“I have chosen to come forward as a petitioner to support others who wanted to come forward but felt too frightened to do so as this could potentially affect their job and housing prospects, and that of their family members and affect their future political careers,” said Miss Simone, who gave evidence at the hearing today, in a written witness statement. “I have witnessed some irregularities.”
Miss Simone said she spoke to a Turkish man on a doorstep while canvassing in one Tower Hamlets ward.
“He told us that the previous week he had been visited by the Tower Hamlets First (ward) candidate Maium Miah, who had told him to vote of Mayor Lutfur and for Tower Hamlets First as he was a Muslim and good Muslims should vote for their Muslim brother Lutfur,” she said in her statement.
“The young man felt a bit pressured by this. He had left Turkey exactly because of this kind of thing and was shocked to find it going on in the UK.”
The hearing continues.
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