“As a Labour movement we must stand unequivocally in solidarity with Apsana.”
By a Labour Outlook Volunteer & Arise Festival Activist.
Apsana Begum MP, the UK’s first hijab-wearing Muslim MP, was cleared of allegations of housing fraud by a jury on Friday 30 July.
Having been found not guilty, there is now a need for supporters of justice to demonstrate further solidarity and press for an investigation into the motivations of the allegation and why it was pursued.
The case, which Begum has described as being “driven by malicious intent” and causing “great distress and damage” to her reputation, has thrown up huge questions about decision-making at her own local authority who pursued the allegation, Tower Hamlets Council.
Tower Hamlets is a Labour-run council, and the allegation was pursued following a complaint by the brother-in-law of her ex-husband Ehtasham Haque – with her ex-husband himself being a Tower Hamlets Labour councillor.
Former Shadow Attorney-General, Shami Chakrabarti, wrote in The Guardian, “That a case with such curious origins was ever pursued points to an urgent need to examine the independence of Tower Hamlets council and the reasons it sought to investigate Begum in the first place.”
Further, she wrote, “we must ask whether local bureaucrats are ever independent enough of politicians to be trusted with parking fines, let alone imprisonable offences. At the very least, serious investigations should be left to the police and CPS.”
Supporters of Begum, including Labour councillors on Tower Hamlets Council such as Gabriella Salva Macallan, are now asking why the authority pursued such a case at taxpayer expense.
A petition has now been launched urging an inquiry into the housing fraud charge and decisions taken at Tower Hamlets Council.
The petition urges an inquiry to consider:
- whether there were any political or personal motivations behind the action
- whether the investigation was fair and looked at all evidence available
- whether there was any conflict of interest
- the council’s domestic abuse policies and practises and how they related to this case,
- whether there was any misconduct of councillors and/or unelected council employees,
- whether there were any leaks from the council to the media and others about the investigation and prosecution attempt
- what the cost of action (both the investigation and prosecution attempt) was and the value for money for the tax-payer
Begum is the country’s first hijab-wearing MP and in her first few months in office has led become a leading anti-racist campaigner, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and against Islamophobia, and campaigning strongly against legislation such as the Overseas Operations Bill, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (or SpyCops) Bill and the Policing Bill. As MP for Poplar she has also been outspoken against Richard Desmond’s scandal-hit Westferry housing development.
Show your support with Apsana and join the call for an investigation – Sign and share the change.org petition here.