The controversial mayor of Tower Hamlets is to face a High Court trial over claims of electoral fraud.
Four petitioners today won their bid to expose Lutfur Rahman’s election victory to a full inquiry after allegations that voters were promised council houses if they voted for him.
They claimed Rahman’s team used a “variety of forms” of fraud when he won the mayoral ballot by 3,000 votes in May.
High Court judge Mr Justice Supperstone, sitting with Mr Justice Spence, granted the petitioners a trial after Mr Rahman’s legal team failed to get their case thrown out.
Mr Justice Supperstone said that “further particulars of the allegations in the petition” should be supplied by 18 August.
He declined to fix a trial date, saying: “In any event, a commissioner will now be appointed to hear this petition and the commissioner will fix the date of the hearing.”
The court refused an application to have the case heard outside the Tower Hamlets area. The petitioners had claimed that “loud and intimidating” supporters of the mayor intimidated witnesses.
They also alleged that voters were given lollipops and led to believe they would not be good Muslims if they did not support Mr Rahman and his Tower Hamlets First party.
Mr Rahman’s legal team had applied to have the entire petition dismissed, claiming that it was “flawed and insufficiently detailed”.
Mr Rahman denies any wrong-doing. In a statement issued after the ruling, he said: “There is simply no evidence to substantiate that the recent elections results were due to fraud and intimidation.
“I am completely confident that at the end of this process such claims will be exposed for the smears that they are.”
Petitioner Andy Erlam, who stood as a councillor on an anti-corruption ticket, said he was “delighted” with the outcome and urged residents of Tower Hamlets to come forward if they noticed “irregularities” at the election.
Mr Rahman’s defeated Labour rival John Biggs said: “There are a number of serious concerns that should be explored. Indeed, many people still believe that the election was stolen.
“But we do need to end this uncertainty one way or the other reasonably quickly, so we can all focus on the real priority – providing the people of the East End with the leadership they need, and want, with proper checks and balances, at a time of massive change.”