- Lib Dem candidate took rival to election court after council result in May
- He claims a Facebook post shared by Labour man broke the rules
- The post allegedly suggests Muslims will ‘go to hell’ for not voting Labour
- Labour candidate denies the Facebook post implies such a message
A Muslim councillor won his seat illegally by implying voters would ‘go to hell’ if they did not back Labour, a court has heard.
Ansar Ali Khan is accused of using Facebook to influence his local Islamic community during the May elections.
An election court heard today that he shared a post on April 15 which claimed Muslim elders inBirmingham were ‘ordering’ followers to vote for his party.
His Liberal Democrat opponent Shamsur Rehman claims it caused devout followers to believe they would be ‘faced with the fire of hell’ if they backed another party.
Cllr Khan, 50, went on to win the Washwood Heath seat with a huge majority of 7,805 – the largest in the city – and 78 per cent of vote.
But Mr Rehman, 47, later launched a legal challenge to have the result declared void.
He accused his opponent of using ‘undue spiritual influence’, meaning Muslims were made to feel it was their religious duty to vote Labour.
The rival politicians appeared before an Election Court held at Birmingham County Court this week.
Representing himself, Mr Rehman said: ‘It is our case that the message conveys that if you don’t vote Labour you are likely to suffer spiritual injury in the hereafter.
‘The punishment that follows if they don’t follow their religion is being faced with the fire of hell. The post is shared by the respondent himself.
‘The court is invited to find that the respondent is guilty of threatening spiritual injury and should declare void the election accordingly.’
Eight Labour politicians – including Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood – were pictured alongside prominent mosque leader Pir Alauddin Siddiqui in the Facebook post.
It read: ‘All Pir Sahiban and Darbars in Birmingham have ordered Mureeds to Vote Labour in elections’.
Mr Rehman accused Cllr Khan of having a ‘mutually beneficial’ relationship with the mosque leader.
He added: ‘This is my community: I was brought up in it. I know how the politics works here. Trust me. You get told that if you get the mosques under your belt, you will get voted in. This is what happens. The mosques are the kingmakers.
‘He has had many meetings with Pir Siddiqui. There is a relationship over and above the normal relationship. It was mutually beneficial. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back.’
Cllr Khan – who is also chairman of Birmingham City Council’s Hodge Hill district committee – denies the allegations.
Gavin Millar, representing Cllr Khan, said: ‘A threat is a declaration of an intention to punish or hurt.
‘You have to be sure that they constituted an intention to punish or hurt, and the petitioner can’t begin to get to the standard of proof because the words aren’t there.
‘You can’t just speculate as to the consequences of a single post. Given the majority you need a lot of votes to have been affected.
‘You can’t reach these hard-edged conclusions to overturn the result of someone who has won by 7,800 votes.’
He accused Mr Rehman of being ‘hypocritical’ because he had also been photographed with Pir Siddiqui in the run-up to the Milad Muslim festival in April.
Mr Millar added: ‘A photograph was taken of you with Pir Siddiqui at that meeting. A number of photographs were posted of the Pir with you and your colleagues.
‘The truth is that there is absolutely nothing objectionable because Pir Siddiqui offered a platform for activists from all the political parties.’
Mr Millar also questioned why there was no date on the Facebook screenshot.
The case, which is being presided over by Commissioner Timothy Straker QC, continues.