Tower Hamlets election: Detailed allegations against Lutfur Rahman revealed in High Court petition

By Rob Virtue on August 19, 2014 10:56 PM |

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Detailed claims of voter fraud, intimidation and false representation have been submitted to the High Court by a group contesting the validity of May's Tower Hamlets election.

The petition, seen by The Wharf, has been launched against Mayor Lutfur Rahman and returning officer John Williams.

Among explosive allegations it claims at a restaurant weeks before the election, around 30 council employees were encouraged by both council managers and Mr Rahman's supporters to get 100 votes each for the mayor or risk losing their jobs.

The petition states: "It was made clear that these votes should be obtained by illegal means, including through postal voting fraud."

It was also claimed Tower Hamlets First candidates and activists were told by Mayor Rahman at a meeting in another restaurant they must fill out up to 250 postal vote applications each and were then each given a bundle of 250 forms.

The 70 page document makes further allegations, including detailing accusations of racism levelled by the mayor's team at his main rival, Labour's John Biggs, through press releases issued by the mayor's Tower Hamlets First party before being repeated on Mr Rahman's website and in Bangladeshi newspapers.

The petition outlines: "Over the course of the election campaign, councillors and candidates of THF and other supporters (of Mayor Rahman) engaged in a campaign to discredit and smear Mr Biggs by... accusing him of being a racist and hostile to the Muslim community in general and the Bangladeshi community in particular."

They say the racist slurs were false and therefore contrary to the Representation of the People Act 1983.

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Accusations surrounding the vote included eight people claiming they were turned away from polling stations as somebody had impersonated them, as well as a large number of incidents connected to postal vote fraud.

The petition also documents illegal practices such as groups of up to 30 THF activists gathering at polling stations and intimidating voters. Some voters were escorted into polling booths and there were five incidents cited of voters going into booths together.

It was also claimed the returning officer failed to supervise the count properly or train staff adequately. It makes accusations of count staff speaking Bengali to the mayor's team, promising to campaign for him in future and being whispered to by the mayor.

Mayor Rahman and Mr Williams both deny the allegations. The mayor took to Twitter on Monday evening to denounce the petition.

He wrote: "Today's 'vote fraud' particulars as expected, reams of conspiracy theory. Look forward to painstakingly contesting and defeating in courts."

The case is now set to go to the High Court later this year.

The Mayor had previously failed in an attempt to block the High Court petition.