London

Tower Hamlets locals 'scared to cross Lutfur Rahman'

Petitioners Angela Moffat Andy Erlam and Azmal Hussein (right) outside the Royal Courts of Justice Image copyright PA
Image caption Petitioners Azmal Hussein, Angela Moffat and Andy Erlam have accused Lutfur Rahman of electoral fraud

A Labour activist who accuses the mayor of Tower Hamlets of electoral fraud has told a judge locals have been "too frightened" to come forward.

At the Election Court - part of the High Court - four petitioners allege mayor Lutfur Rahman used "corrupt and illegal practices" last year.

Retail analyst Debbie Simone said others were afraid that joining the petitioners could affect their job and housing prospects.

Mr Rahman denies any wrongdoing.

'Witnessed irregularities'

The four have mounted a challenge under the 1983 Representation Of The People Act at a special High Court hearing.

They hope Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey, sitting as a judge, will declare the poll void.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lutfur Rahman's lawyers have described the claims as "invention" and "exaggeration"

Lawyers for the four have made a series of allegations - including "personation" in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.

Lawyers for Mr Rahman, who was re-elected for independent party Tower Hamlets First last May, have described the claims as "invention", "exaggeration" and "in some cases downright deliberately false allegations".

Miss Simone, who gave evidence in a written statement, said: "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.

She said she had "witnessed some irregularities", telling how she had spoken to a Turkish man on a doorstep while canvassing for Labour 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 for Mayor Lutfur and for Tower Hamlets First as he was a Muslim and good Muslims should vote for their Muslim brother Lutfur," she said.

"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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