Voting against Muslim candidate 'sinful', Londoners told
Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets said anyone voting against him would be punished in afterlife, court papers allege
Britain's first Muslim mayor, Lutfur Rahman, has been accused of telling Islamic electors in the borough of Tower Hamlets that it was their "religious duty" to vote for him.
Documents filed at the High Court claim that voters were told they would receive rewards in the afterlife for voting for Rahman, and would be punished if they voted for rival Labour candidate John Biggs, The Times reports.
The controversial candidate won the knife-edge mayoral election in May by just 3,000 votes.
Rahman, who went into the election as the leader of the council in the east London borough, was also accused of overseeing a "systematic campaign of intimidation" including widespread postal voting fraud, the Evening Standard reports.
The mayor, or those acting on his behalf, allegedly instructed party supporters to collect and fill out 250 postal votes at a meeting held in a Bangladeshi restaurant ahead of the election.
According to the dossier, Rahman told voters that it would be "un-Islamic and sinful" to support one of his rivals, and said voting for him would be a "virtuous and Islamic act", the Standard says.
Four voters filed a petition asking the High Court to declare the election corrupt and invalid. A trial is expected later this year.
Supporting their claim that the mayor exerted undue spiritual influence on voters, the petitioners noted that a group of 101 religious leaders had signed a letter of support for Rahman that was published in a local Bangladeshi newspaper. Some of the signatories were linked to religious organisations that had received grants of £25,000 from his council.
At a polling station, Bengali voters were allegedly told by activists: "Islam is in danger. You must vote for Lutfur otherwise you are not a good Muslim."
A spokesman for Rahman denied the charges. "The allegations filed with the court yesterday don't come as a surprise," he told the Standard. "They repeat allegations made before and which have never been proven, despite thorough investigations by the Metropolitan Police and Electoral Commission. We look forward to vigorously contesting them in court".