Lutfur Rahman: some facts the Guardian forgot to mention

 

For reasons I can’t quite understand, the Guardian newspaper, “the world’s leading liberal voice,” has appointed itself spokesperson for some of the most illiberal forces in London, notably the extremist-dominated East London Mosque and the council leader closely connected to it, Lutfur Rahman (above).  Maybe the Guardian likes them simply because the Telegraph doesn’t like them – but even for the left, that seems an outstandingly stupid reason to embrace people who oppose everything you’re supposed to believe.

The paper’s latest panegyric for Rahman, last week (“what inspires and energises me is the community”) was so poor a piece of journalism that it even briefly trended on Twitter. As Private Eye’s Tim Minogue put it, “the Order of the Brown Nose profile of Rahman worth it for comments alone. Readers put record straight – and how! More comments deleted from Guardian toadying profile of Mayor Lutfur than an Alan Rusbridger piano piece.”

The writer, Saba Salman, presented Rahman’s exclusion from the Labour Party as “a gulf between national leadership and grassroots activism,” described the allegations against him as “mudslinging,” and accepted at face value not just his denials of extremist links but his claim not to be cutting frontline services (tell that to, say, the users of the Appian Court day centre in Bow, which faces closure – while new millions are to be poured into religious buildings, mainly mosques.)

So I thought I’d update my earlier summary of the evidence against Lutfur just to remind you of all the things Ms Salman had to ignore. What follows is not mud – but fact, which has withstood literally hundreds of complaints to Ofcom and the PCC from Rahman and his supporters. Let’s hope the Guardian gets back to doing some actual reporting about this subject soon.

March 1 2010: The Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches reveal that Lutfur, then the Labour council leader, achieved the position with the help of the Islamic Forum of Europe, based at the East London Mosque, which works to create a sharia state and an “Islamic social, economic and political order” in Britain. In a filmed interview, he refuses to deny the charge.  Under Lutfur, large sums of council money are diverted to IFE front organisations, a man with close links to the IFE is made the council’s assistant chief executive despite being unqualified for the job, and the respected white chief executive is summarily sacked. In undercover filming, senior IFE activists boast of their “consolidated… influence and power” over the council.  The local Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, tells us that his party has been “infiltrated” by the IFE.

May: Lutfur is replaced by the Labour group as council leader. The IFE-linked assistant chief executive is forced to resign. However, the IFE now aims to “get one of our brothers” into the powerful new directly-elected mayoral post that is to replace the council leadership in October.

July/August: Lutfur is excluded from Labour’s shortlist for the mayoral candidacy, but goes to court to force his reinstatement. The solicitor he uses was closely connected to the al-Qaeda-supporting group, al-Muhajiroun, and signed a fatwa calling for a “full-scale war of jihad” against Britain and the US.

September 3: In filmed interviews (transcripts here), local residents tell how Lutfur has personally signed up their entire families as sham Labour members to win selection as the party’s mayoral candidate.

September 4: Lutfur is selected as the Labour candidate.

September 15: Evidence is submitted by one of the defeated candidates and others to Labour’s National Executive Committee detailing Lutfur’s links with the IFE and a powerful local businessman, Shiraj Haque, and alleging massive fraud in the selection.

September 18: Lutfur is accused of failing to declare thousands of pounds in donations from Shiraj Haque – a criminal offence, if true. We have been asked to point out that Lutfur was later sent a police letter saying that there was “no case to answer.” However, the complainant, Cllr Peter Golds, insists that the police never investigated the matter seriously.

September 21: Labour’s NEC sacks Lutfur as the candidate.

September 25: Lutfur stands as an independent. Under Labour Party rules, he is automatically expelled from the party. Six of the people who sign his nomination papers have the same names as senior office-holders and trustees of the IFE.

October 15: Thousands of copies are distributed of publicity material smearing Lutfur’s Labour opponent as a wife-beater and an enemy of Islam. The chief coordinator of Lutfur’s campaign, Bodrul Islam, later says that the material was produced by people “embedded” in the Rahman campaign and with its full knowledge.

October 19: Ken Livingstone, Labour candidate for mayor of London, who has also benefited from IFE support, and been personally paid money by Lutfur’s council, campaigns for Lutfur against his own party’s candidate.

October 21: Lutfur Rahman elected mayor. The chief coordinator of his election campaign, Bodrul Islam, later says that the new mayor had a “strategic relationship” with the IFE and “most of [Lutfur’s] campaigners during the election were either Respect or IFE activists.”

October 28: Lutfur furious as the council votes to deny him a 98 per cent pay rise, awarding instead a 71 per cent rise. One of his key supporters, Cllr Oli Rahman, describes it as a “cynical” attempt to “undermine the mayor.”

November 3: Tower Hamlets places CDs of sermons by an extremist Islamic preacher, Abdurraheem Green, in the Town Hall reception area. Green believes that “Islam is not compatible with democracy” and that a husband should have the right to administer “a very light beating” to his wife.

November 10: Lutfur appoints Alibor Choudhury, a former employee of an IFE front organisation with a long track record of encounters with the police, to the key post of cabinet member for finance. Alibor was committed for trial for violent disorder in 2006, but the case was dropped due to what he insists was an “abuse of process.” (Lutfur’s cabinet was, and remains, 100 per cent Bengali, in a borough which is only about 35% Bengali.)

November 14: Lutfur fails to turn up to Tower Hamlets’ annual Remembrance ceremony at the borough’s man war memorial, despite promising to attend. All the borough’s other civic leaders make it. The following year (see Oct 10, 2011 below) he will make front-page news by trying to hire out the war memorial grounds for City bankers’ Christmas piss-ups.

November: Lutfur’s publicly-funded political adviser at Tower Hamlets, Kazim Zaidi, anonymously writes a chapter in an Exeter University report attacking Lutfur’s critics and libelling six senior figures in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party and the local Labour MP as racists. The university is forced to withdraw the report and issue a grovelling apology.

December 2010- February 2011: At council meetings, Shiraj Haque and a crowd of other Lutfur supporters shout homophobic abuse at the mayor’s opponents from the public gallery. They abuse Peter Golds, the Tory leader, as “Mrs Golds” and a “poofter.” They heckle another gay councillor, Labour’s Josh Peck, and a gay local resident speaking at the meeting with animal noises and cries of “Unnatural acts! Unnatural acts!”

January 27 2011: An official Labour Party inquiry finds a “concerted effort” to add fake members to the party during the campaign to select Labour’s candidate for the Tower Hamlets mayoralty.

February 23: Lutfur’s voting bloc on the council passes a motion to “campaign against the pariah state of Israel.”

March 8: Lutfur gives a character reference on Town Hall notepaper for Zamal Uddin, a minicab driver who had six weeks earlier pleaded guilty to a serious sexual assault on a woman passenger. When the press finds out, he claims that he did not know the nature of Uddin’s crime before agreeing to provide the reference.

March: Shiraj Haque is appointed chair of the advisory board for a major council-subsidised festival, the Baishakhi Mela. The council had previously removed him from all involvement with the festival and severed relations after allegations, which he denies, of massive financial irregularities and immigration fraud, with the Mela used as a front to bring in illegal immigrants under the guise of performers.

April 4: Shiraj Haque’s premises are raided by police investigating a major counterfeit wine ring.

April 5: Disclosure logs reveal that the council is paying £50,000 a month of taxpayers’ money to three front organisations for the IFE.

April 12: One of Lutfur’s key supporters, Cllr Shelina Akhtar, is charged with fraud. (She already has one conviction for the same offence.)

April 17:  The council’s official propaganda newspaper, East End Life, runs a series of adverts for a training centre closely connected to Anjem Choudhury, the al Qaeda supporter who runs the extremist group al-Muhajiroun.

April 27: Lutfur takes a number of council staff paid by the taxpayer to campaign for the Labour Party in a parliamentary byelection. The District Auditor is called in.

May 8: Lutfur and Shiraj Haque turn the taxpayer-funded Baishakhi Mela festival into a platform for Ken Livingstone, who makes the keynote speech attacking Boris Johnson.

June 8: Defying a new local authority publicity code against taxpayer-subsidised council “Pravdas,” Lutfur rules that East End Life will continue publishing, at a cost to the public purse of around £1.3 million a year.

June 17: As the council passes budget cuts of £70 million, Lutfur spends £115,000 to refurbish his personal office and treble it in size.

July 4: One of Lutfur’s cabinet, Oli Rahman, appears on a platform with a group campaigning for the “unacceptability of homosexuality.” Lutfur has earlier pledged “zero tolerance” against a wave of homophobic attacks in the borough.

July 14: Lutfur acquires a luxury Mercedes and council-employed chauffeur at a cost to council taxpayers of up to £60,000 a year. No other elected mayor in London, Boris Johnson included, has an official car.

July 22: Tower Hamlets loses its second chief executive in two years as its top official, Kevan Collins, quits for a lower-paid job. He praises councillors (but not Lutfur) in his resignation statement.

August 7: The Telegraph reveals that Shiraj Haque has been given a Tower Hamlets council house at the subsidised rent of £135 a week, even though he is a multi-millionaire owning at least eight properties worth around £5 million.

August 8: As riots sweep London, Tower Hamlets’ enforcement officers are given the day off.

Sept 12: Lutfur scraps the official car of the borough’s ceremonial mayor and tells him to travel to functions, in his robes and gold chain, by taxi.

Oct 10: Tower Hamlets hits the front pages after hiring out its war memorial garden for City bankers’ Christmas parties. The decision is reversed after a storm of protest.

Oct 12: The council’s official newspaper, East End Life, promotes an extremist preacher previously banned from speaking on council premises.

Nov 18: A key Lutfur ally, Shah Yousuf, appears in court on criminal charges under the Representation of the People Act for producing the smear leaflets falsely claiming that Lutfur’s main opponent, Labour’s Helal Abbas, is a wife-beater and enemy of Islam (see Oct 15, 2010.) The leaflets were produced with the Lutfur campaign’s full knowledge, according to the chief coordinator of the campaign. The charges are later mysteriously dropped.

Dec 20: An eight-month campaign of complaints by Lutfur to the Press Complaints Commission about our coverage fails, when the PCC rules that he can be described as “extremist-linked” or “extremist-backed.”

Dec 20: The Telegraph publishes Companies House records showing that Lutfur’s cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Shahed Ali, has avoided £25,000 in tax by liquidating his restaurant business, which immediately reopens under a new name and carries on trading as normal throughout. He uses the proceeds of the tax avoidance to buy himself a Porsche.

Dec 21: The Telegraph reveals leaked Tower Hamlets documents showing that Hira Islam, a Tower Hamlets council officer who is also a key figure in the Islamic Forum of Europe, Lutfur’s extremist backers, has been disciplined by the council for interfering with the May 2010 parliamentary and local government elections. Hira Islam is given only a written warning but the man who first exposed the scandal, the former council leader Helal Abbas, is suspended from the council for “breaching confidentiality” – after a complaint by Hira Islam!

Dec 22: The Telegraph publishes pages written on a social networking website by Lutfur’s cabinet member for culture, Cllr Rania Khan, in which she publishes pictures of knives, declaring: “I know it’s not ladylike, but I luv my weapons,” mocks gay people and backs extremist clerics.

Jan 9 2012: One of Lutfur’s key supporters, Cllr Shelina Akhtar, is convicted of benefit fraud – against her own council – for the second time in eighteen months. Despite pleading guilty, she refuses to give up her council seat and Lutfur refuses to call for her resignation until eight days later.

January: A gay pub in Limehouse, the White Swan, says it faces closure after Lutfur proposes to ban its popular amateur strip night.

Feb 6: Shelina Akhtar is finally forced to give up her seat after being jailed for 16 weeks.

Feb 15: It emerges that Lutfur has hired a former adviser to Ken Livingstone, Tony Winterbottom, at a fee of £1000 a day. A key Livingstone crony, Murziline Parchment, is also hired as his chief of staff, even though council headhunters described her as “very unconvincing,” “disappointing” and “lacking in substance” in her interview for a previous Tower Hamlets role. In total, Lutfur employs 16 paid political advisers, more than any other council leader, the Mayor of London, any cabinet minister or the Prime Minister.

Feb 21: As the mayoral election approaches, new concerns are raised about vote fraud in Tower Hamlets after the electoral roll is found to contain up to 12 voters in the same small flat.

Feb: Lutfur refuses to answer questions from councillors at council meetings, with council officers explaining that to do so might breach his human rights.

March 21: It emerges that Lutfur has employed his election agent, Ghulam Robbani, a man with close links to the IFE, as a council advisor at a rate of £40 an hour. Freedom of Information requests show that he appears to have massively overbilled the council for his time, charging for instance £480 – 12 hours’ work – for attending an event that the other participants say only took 90 minutes. Robbani later resigns to stand as Lutfur’s candidate in the Spitalfields byelection caused by the jailing of Shelina Akhtar.

April 16: It emerges that one of the key figures in the IFE and East London Mosque, Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, is to be charged with war crimes for his alleged involvement in a campaign of abductions and mass murders while opposing Bangladeshi independence in 1971. He denies the charges, saying they are politically-motivated.

April 19: Lutfur’s candidate, Ghulam Robbani, narrowly wins the Spitalfields byelection on an unusually high turnout, despite heavy rain throughout polling day. There is a late surge of applications for postal votes: in one large block, Brune House, Brune Street, the number of people with postal votes more than doubled in the two weeks before polling day. Turnout of postal voters is extraordinarily high: in Brune House, for instance, it is 77 per cent.

April 21: Residents of Brune House tell the Telegraph that supporters of Robbani and Lutfur, including at least one councillor, “harvested” their votes, signing them up for postal votes and collecting the blank ballot papers which were then filled in for Robbani. Council and police investigations are launched.

April 26: The Telegraph reveals that a number of dead or imprisoned people have supposedly voted in the byelection.

May: Lutfur steps up his cult of personality. Pictures of him are attached to the sides of council dustcarts. New council headed notepaper is produced with his picture on it. Large banners featuring his face are put up across the borough, including one which covers up an internationally-famous mural on Brick Lane. It is only removed after the owner of the building threatens legal action.

May 27: Nineteen people are arrested at the British High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh, accused of attempted immigration fraud in connection with Shiraj Haque’s Baishaki Mela. They admit they paid an unspecified individual £10,000 for fake documents claiming they were attending the mela as stallholders.

July 8: Eight Lutfur-supporting councillors are expelled from the Labour Party in a clear sign that Lutfur will not be readmitted to the party.

July 16: Shiraj Haque is given a criminal caution for selling counterfeit wine in his restaurant.

September: Lutfur announces plans to dispose of a number of pubs owned by the council, including the Queen’s Head in Limehouse, which claims to be the inspiration for the Queen Vic in EastEnders. The pubs, some of the few left in the area, may now be forced to close.

October: The heritage selloff continues after Lutfur announces plans to auction Old Flo, a Henry Moore sculpture gifted by the artist to the people of the East End, claiming it is necessary to balance the books (it later emerges that the artwork may not even belong to the council.) At the same time, however, he announces a £2 million grants programme for “faith buildings” – mostly mosques – and £6 million of further grants to “community organisations,” many of them linked to his supporters, in addition to the large and continuing grants given to front bodies for the IFE.

Oct 7: Despite the council’s pleas of poverty, it emerges that a Tower Hamlets officer has charged taxpayers £855 for two first-class rail tickets to attend a conference in Manchester. This is six times the standard walk-on fare and enough for a return flight to Australia. Some of the money is later repaid.

Dec 21: Defying Lutfur, councillors accept an offer of UN-style “support” from the Local Government Association after the departure of several key white officials and the repeated failure to appoint a new chief executive. Whitehall mulls intervention as the local government minister, Brandon Lewis, expresses “concern” over the situation in Tower Hamlets.

Jan 16 2013: Ken Livingstone is ridiculed by Labour’s National Executive Committee as he urges it to readmit Rahman and allow him to fight next year’s Tower Hamlets election as a Labour candidate.

Jan 16: The former local government minister, Bob Neill, accuses Lutfur and the council’s assistant chief executive, Isabella Freeman, of bringing the local government standards regime into “serious disrepute” by using it to bully, hound and threaten their opponents on the council on trumped-up charges. Councillors vote to discipline Freeman for her “bias,” but it makes no difference and she continues exactly as before.

Jan 23: The broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, censures five Bengali TV channels after Lutfur’s allegedly cash-strapped council spends thousands of pounds on adverts promoting the mayor, up to 15 times every day for two weeks. Ofcom said: “The purpose of the advertisement was not to inform and educate the public [but] to promote the Mayor in a positive light.”

Let’s hope, at least, that Lutfur didn’t have to pay for his puff-piece in the Guardian.

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Lutfur Rahman council in chaos as Government mulls intervention

At an extraordinary closed-door meeting tonight, Tower Hamlets council called in the local government equivalent of the UN. Amid furious protests from supporters of the borough’s independent mayor, Lutfur Rahman (above), Labour and Tory councillors voted to accept an offer of “support” from the Local Government Association and London Councils to resolve a dispute that is causing the Government “concerns.”

The problem is that ever since Lutfur, a man closely linked to Islamic extremism, took charge of the borough, he has parted company with a worrying number of non-Muslim senior officials. He sacked his first chief executive, the highly-respected Martin Smith (something which cost Tower Hamlets taxpayers around £300,000 in compensation to Mr Smith, who is now head of the rather saner Ealing council.)

Lutfur’s second chief exec, Kevan Collins, walked out last July for a lower-paid post – pointedly thanking councillors, but not Lutfur, in his resignation letter. The man currently doing the job on an acting basis, Steve Halsey, has refused the permanent appointment. The finance director, Chris Naylor, is leaving too. And so is the director of children’s services, Isobel Cattermole.

As the chief executives of the LGA and London Councils say in a letter to councillors, a copy of which has been passed to me: “We would be very anxious that this significantly reduced capacity within the senior management team will present a real risk to the performance and proper governance of the Council.”

Instead of properly-qualified officers, as we’ve reported, the council hired a man closely connected to Lutfur’s Islamist backers, the Islamic Forum of Europe, as assistant chief executive (though was forced to dispense with his services after I exposed his Islamist links.) Mayor Rahman has also imported a large further number of rather questionable cronies on sometimes extraordinary sums of money – several of them associated with that other well-known model of probity, Ken Livingstone. Several of these characters have been busy passing out large sums of council money to Lutfur’s Islamist allies.

In the long run, however, the council simply can’t operate with so many holes in its professional management team. Alas, credible applicants for top jobs at Lutfur’s Tower Hamlets have proved rather thin on the ground. Can’t think why! In fact, for the chief executiveship, only one serious candidate, the current development director, Aman Dalvi, strongly backed by Lutfur, appears to want the gig.

But though Lutfur has absolute power over most things at Tower Hamlets, the appointment of a new chief exec is a matter for councillors. And the councillors, most of whom are Labour or Tory, do not want Mr Dalvi. They say he’s too close to the Dear Leader. They’ve rejected him at least four times now, most recently tonight, amid what someone present at the meeting described as “unbelievably unpleasant scenes” from Lutfur’s clique, even by their standards. Instead councillors voted for the LGA and London Councils peacekeeping force. “Racism” was, of course, the main charge levelled against the opponents of Mr Dalvi – but in a council where Lutfur’s ruling political cabinet is 100 per cent Bengali and Muslim, even though Bengalis only make up about a third of the borough, it’s a charge that could cut both ways.

The most interesting thing about the LGA/ London Councils letter is that it was clearly sent at the behest of ministers. As it says, the offer of support “has been brought about by the Department for Communities and Local Government bringing to our attention its concerns regarding the difficulty the Council is experiencing in making an appointment to the post of Head of Paid Service [chief executive]…. We are also aware that the Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, has expressed his concern about the on-going difficulties in making an appointment and the importance of the Council achieving a satisfactory resolution to the situation as soon as possible.”

As Ted Jeory has reported, and I also know, ministers are keeping a very close eye on the deeply worrying situation at Tower Hamlets. They could intervene, appointing a chief executive of their own, as they did in Doncaster (also blessed with a controversial directly-elected mayor) or even taking over the council. Wisely, they appear reluctant to do either at this stage, hence the choice of the LGA route. Direct intervention in Tower Hamlets may become necessary – what’s happening with the officers is just the tip of the iceberg – but at this stage it would probably be counterproductive, allowing Lutfur and his clique to claim themselves the victims of an undemocratic and racist Whitehall coup.

The actual nature of the LGA/ London Councils “support” isn’t yet clear – the offer only came in this afternoon – but it is unlikely to change the fundamental problem at Tower Hamlets, which is that a £1 billion local authority is being slowly and systematically turned into a vehicle favouring one particular set of interests and one segment of the community. More on this to follow soon.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin to be charged with war crimes

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin with Prince Charles

The following story appeared in the print edition of yesterday’s paper:

One of Britain’s most important Muslim leaders is to be charged with war crimes, investigators and officials have told The Sunday Telegraph.

Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, also known as Choudhury Moinuddin, director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the NHS, a trustee of the major British charity Muslim Aid and a central figure in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain, fiercely denies any involvement in a number of abductions and “disappearances” during Bangladesh’s independence struggle in the 1970s.

He says the claims are “politically-motivated” and false.

However, Mohammad Abdul Hannan Khan, the chief investigator for the country’s International Crimes Tribunal, said: “There is prima facie evidence of Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin being involved in a series of killings of intellectuals.

“We have made substantial progress in the case against him. There is no chance that he will not be indicted and prosecuted. We expect charges in June.”

Mr Mueen-Uddin could face the death penalty if convicted.

Bangladesh’s Law and Justice Minister, Shafique Ahmed, said: “He was an instrument of killing intellectuals. He will be charged, for sure.”

For 25 years after independence from Britain, the country now known as Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, even though the two halves were a thousand miles apart with India between them. In 1971, Bangla resentment at the “colonial” nature of Pakistani rule broke out into a full-scale revolt.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were massacred by Pakistani troops.

Mr Mueen-Uddin, then a journalist on the Purbodesh newspaper in Dhaka, was a member of a fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which supported Pakistan in the war. In the closing days, as it became clear that Pakistan had lost, he is accused of being part of a collaborationist Bangla militia, the Al-Badr Brigade, which rounded up, tortured and killed prominent citizens to deprive the new state of its intellectual and cultural elite.

The sister-in-law of one such victim, Dolly Chaudhury, claims to have identified Mr Mueen-Uddin as one of three men who abducted her husband, Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, a prominent scholar of Bengali literature, on the night of 14 December 1971.

“I was able to identify one [of the abductors], Mueen-Uddin,” she said in video testimony, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which will form part of the prosecution case.

“He was wearing a scarf but my husband pulled it down as he was taken away. When he was a student, he often used to go to my brother in law’s house. My husband, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, we all recognised that man.”

Professor Chaudhury was never seen again.

Also among the as yet untested testimony is the widow of another victim, who claims that Mr Mueen-Uddin was in the group that abducted her husband, Sirajuddin Hussain, another journalist, from their home on the night of 10 December 1971.

“There was no doubt that he was the person involved in my husband’s abduction and killing,” said Noorjahan Seraji. One of the other members of the group, who was caught soon afterwards, allegedly gave Mr Mueen-Uddin’s name in his confession.

Another reporter on Purbodesh, Ghulam Mostafa, also disappeared.

The vanished journalist’s brother, Dulu, said he appealed to Mr Mueen-Uddin for help and was taken around the main Pakistani Army detention and torture centres by Mr Mueen-Uddin. Dulu Mostafa said that Mr Mueen-Uddin appeared to be well known at the detention centres, gained easy admission to the premises and was saluted by the Pakistani guards as he entered. Ghulam was never found.

Mr Mueen-Uddin’s then editor at the paper, Atiqur Rahman, said that Mr Mueen-Uddin had been the first journalist in the country to reveal the existence of the Al-Badr Brigade and had demonstrated intimate knowledge of its activities.

After his colleagues disappeared, he said, Mr Mueen-Uddin had asked for his home address. Fearing that he too would be abducted, the editor gave a fake address. Mr Rahman’s name, complete with the fake address, appeared on a Al-Badr death list found just after the end of the war.

“I gave that address only to Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, and when that list appeared it was obvious that he had given that address to Al Badr,” Mr Rahman said in statements given to the investigators.

“I’m sure I gave the address to no-one else.”

Mr Rahman then published a front-page story and picture about Mr Mueen-Uddin, who had by that stage left the city, naming him as involved in “disappearances.”

This brought forward two further witnesses, Mushtaqur and Mahmudur Rahman, who claim they recognised the picture as somebody who had been part of an armed group looking for the BBC correspondent in Dhaka during the abductions. The group was unsuccessful because the BBC man had gone into hiding.

Toby Cadman, Mr Mueen-Uddin’s lawyer, said on Saturday: “No formal allegations have been put to Mr Mueen-Uddin and therefore it is not appropriate to issue any formal response. Any and all allegations that Mr Mueen-Uddin committed or participated in any criminal conduct during the Liberation War of 1971 that have been put in the past will continue to be strongly denied in their entirety.

“For the Chief Investigator to be making such public comment raises serious questions as to the integrity of the investigation. The Chief Investigator will be aware that the decision as to the bringing of charges is made by the Prosecutor and not an investigator.

“Therefore, the comments by the Chief Investigator are highly improper and serves as a further basis for raising the question as to whether a fair trial may be guaranteed before the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh.

“The statement by the Bangladesh Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs is a clear declaration of guilt and in breach of the presumption of innocence.”

Since moving to the UK in the early 1970s, Mr Mueen-Uddin has taken British citizenship and built a successful career as a community activist and Muslim leader.

In 1989 he was a key leader of protests against the Salman Rushdie book, The Satanic Verses.

Around the same time he helped to found the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, Jamaat-e-Islami’s European wing, which believes in creating a sharia state in Europe and in 2010 was accused by a Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, of infiltrating the Labour Party.

Tower Hamlets’ directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was expelled from Labour for his close links with the IFE.

Until 2010 Mr Mueen-Uddin was vice-chairman of the controversial East London Mosque, controlled by the IFE, in which capacity he greeted Prince Charles when the heir to the throne opened an extension to the mosque. He was also closely involved with the Muslim Council of Britain, which has been dominated by the IFE.

He was chairman and remains a trustee of the IFE-linked charity, Muslim Aid, which has a budget of £20 million. He has also been closely involved in the Markfield Institute, the key institution of Islamist higher education in the UK.

The International Crimes Tribunal, a new body set up to try alleged “war criminals” from the 1971 war, has already begun trying some Bangladesh-based leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Trials were originally supposed to start soon after the war but were cancelled by the military after a coup.

The new tribunal was welcomed by most Bangladeshis and international human rights groups as finally bringing justice and closure for the massive abuses suffered by civilians in 1971.

However, it is now subject to growing international criticism. Human Rights Watch said that the ICT’s proceedings “fall short of international standards” with a “failure to ensure due process” and “serious concerns about the impartiality of the bench.”

“The chairman of the tribunal was formerly one of the investigators,” said Abdur Razzaq, lead counsel for the defence.

“As chairman, he will be pronouncing on an investigation report he himself produced.”

The law minister, Mr Ahmed, denied this. Mr Razzaq described the tribunal as “vendetta politics” by Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League against its political opponents.

Any trial of Mr Mueen-Uddin would also be fraught with practical difficulties. There is no extradition treaty between Britain and Bangladesh and the UK does not extradite in death penalty cases. Many of the witnesses are elderly and some have died.

However, Mr Hannan Khan said that Mr Mueen-Uddin was likely to be tried in absentia if he did not return.

“We have a duty to bring alleged perpetrators to justice,” he said.

“They must know the fear, however long ago it was. What happened here forty years ago is on the conscience of the world.”

“I have waited 40 years to see the trial of the war criminals,” said the widow, Noorjahan Seraji. “I have not spent a single night without suffering and I want justice.”

East London Mosque: have a happy extremist Christmas

Christmas is always a busy time down at this blog’s favourite hub of moderation’n’tolerance, the East London Mosque, controlled by the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe. The punters have to be saved from what Mahera Ruby, the head of the IFE’s women’s section, called the “pagan myth of Santa Claus.” What’s that, Mahera? You mean Santa doesn’t really exist?

Tonight, there’s a special treat (strictly gender-segregated, of course) to get the non-festive season underway. It’s the final round of the “Battle of the Isocs,” a quiz for university Islamic societies, former stamping-grounds of so many of our finest young terrorists. Among the celebrity guests (see above) is a certain Haitham al-Haddad, a big favourite at the East London Mosque. One of his previous appearances there was at an event to pronounce music a “social ill.” Haitham has also described music as a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.” Let’s hope there aren’t any questions about last year’s Christmas Number One, shall we?

If Christmas without music sounds a bit dull, the East London Mosque has the answer. On Christmas Eve, there is a meeting about “the greatest prophet” with the IFE activist and one of Hamas’s most fervent fans, Junaid Ahmed. Then on Boxing Day the mosque hosts another event with another terrorist apologist, Zahir Mahmood. You’ve already missed, alas, the East London Mosque meeting last week about the rehabilitation of young offenders with Azad Ali, the IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator. Azad knows a bit about causing offence himself – he’s justified the killing of British troops…

East London Mosque bags itself a bishop

The East London Mosque - the extremists flagship
The East London Mosque - the extremists' flagship

The Islamists of East London, led by their flagship the East London Mosque, have been loudly condemning a proposed march by the English Defence League through Tower Hamlets on September 3. Actually, of course, they are thrilled.

The EDL is wrong in so many ways – look at this video for how one of its previous marches, in Leicester, ended – but not least because they hand their supposed enemies, Muslim radicals, the perfect way to build support and legitimacy. The Islamists’ attempts to blame the EDL for the Norway massacre are perhaps a bit of a stretch – but who could dispute that the EDL are a racist rabble? Who could possibly object to campaigning against them?

The mosque has duly placed itself at the head of a campaign to resist the march – called, with beautiful irony, “One Tower Hamlets – No Place for Hate.” I think they must mean “No Place for Hate – Apart From The East London Mosque.” The mosque, as we have frequently reported, has hosted literally dozens of racist, terrorist, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and Islamic supremacist preachers, and continues to do so, despite its lies to the contrary. It is controlled by an Islamic supremacist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe. The East London Mosque, in short, is a far greater source of hate in Tower Hamlets than whatever handful of yobs the EDL manages to ship in for a few hours in September.

Most of the campaign’s supporters appear to be the usual suspects: the mosque, its front organisations and their fellow-travellers and useful idiots. There’s the IFE’s Azad Ali – the man whose contribution to the fight against hatred includes calling for British troops to be killed, and who stated (not realising he was being secretly filmed): “Democracy, if it means not implementing the sharia, of course no-one agrees with that.”

There’s Mohammed Rabbani, head of the IFE youth wing, whose belief in inter-community harmony is so deep that he teaches his young recruits: “Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilize these believers into an organized force for change who will carry out da’wah [preaching], hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order.]”

And there are those Ken Livingstone/ Lee Jasper creations, One Society Many Cultures and Unite Against Fascism (Jasper’s typically measured intervention in the Norway killings story yesterday was to compare Boris Johnson to Anders Behring Breivik.)

But amid this dreadful crew there are a couple of people from legitimate and untainted organisations, notably the Church. The new bishop of Stepney, Rt Rev Adrian Newman, will speak at a “No Place for Hate” pre-rally at the East London Mosque on Friday, his first public engagement since taking office.

The Bishop is the mosque’s most important recruit so far to what appears to be its new strategy of legitimisation. After they were thoroughly exposed by this newspaper and Channel 4, the mosque and IFE have realised that they can no longer simply rely on lies and empty threats of legal action to see off their critics.

They have therefore embarked on a policy of creating stand-alone campaigns which no-one can on the face of it object to, and involving non-extremists in those campaigns to lend themselves a sheen of respectability. Another such campaign, the IFE’s “My Neighbours Project,” aiming to foster neighbourliness, was launched last week and managed to snare Rushanara Ali MP. No doubt soon we will see IFE-sponsored groups to promote motherhood and the eating of apple pie.

I say the Church is untainted – but if it starts mixing with people like Azad Ali that won’t last long. There are plenty of far more representative Muslim groups to work with. By all means protest against racism, bishop. But don’t do it through the East London Mosque – you’re in danger of making yourself look ridiculous.

Extremist IFE sponsors a man who "calls Jews 'germs' and 'monkeys'"

In two weeks’ time there will be a meeting in Tower Hamlets with a man called Raed Salah, a Palestinian who reportedly wrote the following piece of poetry in the Hamas journal:

“You Jews are criminal bombers of mosques,

Slaughterers of pregnant women and babies.

Robbers and germs in all times,

The Creator sentenced you to be loser monkeys,

Victory belongs to Muslims, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

Saleh has also propagated the ancient “blood libel” against Jews, stating that they used Palestinian children’s blood to bake bread.

The meeting with this gentleman is co-sponsored by our old friends, those famously “democratic Muslims” of the Islamic Forum of Europe, the people who control that equally well-known home of tolerance and harmony, the East London Mosque.

The IFE is also, of course, also the group with which Lutfur Rahman, the directly-elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, has a “strategic relationship,” according to his campaign co-ordinator.

The meeting isn’t taking place at the mosque – as I mentioned in my previous post, they’re in one of their periodic batten-down-the-hatches phases after a spell of negative PR. According to the organisers, it is taking place at an even more prominent, much more heavily publicly-funded Tower Hamlets institution – Queen Mary University. However, the university has been in touch to say that it will not be occurring there. Permission for the event was sought, but has been refused: an encouraging sign that the authorities are getting serious about tackling this sort of racism.

Tower Hamlets: Labour finds 'concerted effort' to sign up fake members

An inquiry by Labour’s national executive committee into Tower Hamlets Labour Party has found that there was “membership abuse,” with a “concerted effort” to add fake members to the party. Last October, the inquiry found, 149 members of the Tower Hamlets party were not on the electoral register at the address they gave and in 75 of these cases there was no evidence that they ever had been on the register.

“It is membership abuse to claim to be a member at any address where you do not live,” the report concluded. “The number of cases strongly suggest that this would not have come about through accident or through individuals acting alone to abuse the system. The evidence outlined above is sufficient to suggest a concerted effort to add people to the membership list in Tower Hamlets was being undertaken by one or more individuals.”

Last year, one Tower Hamlets Labour MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, told this newspaper and Channel 4’s Dispatches how the Islamic extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), based at the hardline East London Mosque, was infiltrating the local Labour Party in the same way as Militant did in the 1980s. Our investigation showed how Labour membership in one of the Tower Hamlets constituencies, Bethnal Green and Bow, had more than doubled between 2006 and 2008, at a time when Labour membership nationally was sharply falling. Ninety per cent of the new members were Asian, in a constituency which is only about 50% Asian.

Dozens of the new “members” joined on the same day, with up to eight “members” purportedly living in the same two-bedroom flats. Some of the new members were people with the same names as individuals we can link to the IFE. When we called to these places, we found that the actual residents often had no knowledge of the people who claimed to be living there.

In one of the clumsiest attempts at spin I have ever seen, one far-left, Lutfur-supporting Tower Hamlets resident, Jon Lansman, headlines his blog: “Tower Hamlets: membership inquiry reveals no conspiracy.” But he then goes on to give precisely the same passage about a “concerted effort” to recruit fake members which I just quoted! It’s the neatest demonstration for some time of the fantasy world inhabited by people like Mr Lansman, where words mean nothing beside political allegiances.

Seventy-five fake members would probably not have been enough, on their own, to swing Labour’s mayoral selection for the IFE’s chosen candidate, Lutfur Rahman. But Labour’s NEC has called for further investigations, and the inquiry isn’t complete. It does not, for instance, seem to have addressed some of the other membership abuses we uncovered – that people who are real and who do live where they claim to live were nonetheless signed up, without their agreement, as members of the Labour Party by Mr Rahman. These allegations played a part in getting Lutfur sacked as the Labour candidate for mayor. With the enthusiastic help of the IFE, he later won election as an independent.

The inquiry also takes someone’s presence on the electoral roll as proof of their existence. But you can manufacture fake electors just as easily as you can manufacture fake members of the Labour Party, indeed perhaps more easily. Just like the Labour Party membership roll, the Tower Hamlets electoral roll has gone up and down like a yoyo from year to year, depending on whether there are significant elections that year. And there were some very interesting results indeed at the 2008 mayoral election.

Some on Labour’s hard left are still trying to rehabilitate Lutfur – he’ll be speaking at the Labour Briefing AGM this weekend, a bizarre new direction for a man who supported David Miliband for the party leadership less than four months ago. But the deadly embrace of the Dave Spart crowd will probably only seal his exclusion from the party.

Also today, as Ted Jeory reports, there has been a new outbreak of hostilities between Tower Hamlets Labour and Lutfur. He won’t be getting back in the Labour Party any time soon, methinks.