LONDON: A jury in London has cleared a Muslim member of parliament of fraud charges. Labour MP Apsana Begum, who represents Poplar and Limehouse in East London, faced three charges of dishonestly failing to disclose information relating to a council housing application between 2013 and 2016.
Tower Hamlets council accused her of costing it almost £64,000 ($89,000) by failing to notify officials that she was no longer living in overcrowded housing.
Begum, 31, collapsed in the dock and wept when the jurors found her not guilty on all three counts.
During the trial, she said she fled her home in 2013 during an argument in which her brother said she was “possessed,” causing her to fear she would fall victim to honor-based violence.
She moved in with her then-partner, Tower Hamlets Councillor Ehtasham Haque, but said he subsequently became “controlling and coercive” and took over her affairs.
Helen Law, defending, said that the complaint that triggered the investigation into Begum — made in 2019 by Sayed Nahid Uddin, Haque’s brother-in-law, after the couple split — was false.
According to the prosecution, documents submitted by Begum’s mother and aunt revealed that there were four bedrooms in her property and she had failed to inform the council that by January 2013, after her father died and her aunt moved out, only four people were living there.
Begum said that at the time she was struggling to come to terms with her father’s death and her family’s disapproval of her relationship with Haque, who had been married and divorced several times.
After her acquittal, Begum said: “As a survivor of domestic abuse facing these vexatious charges, the last 18 months of false accusations, online sexist, racist and Islamophobic abuse, and threats to my safety have been exceedingly difficult.
“I would like to say a sincere thank you to all my legal team and all those who have shown me solidarity, support and kindness.
“I will be consulting and considering how to follow up so that something like this doesn’t happen again to anyone else.”