The ex-mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, will speak in public for the first time on Thursday since being found guilty of electoral fraud last week.
The event, Defend Democracy in Tower Hamlets, will be held in Whitechapel and is an opportunity for Mr Rahman and his supporters to speak out against the verdict, following news that he plans to appeal the decision.
Several public figures have offered their support to the ex-mayor since the verdict. Bradford West MP George Galloway’s press office said he won’t be present at the event but will send a message or video and “is fully supportive”.
The office also said that Galloway is “appalled and outraged by the decision”.
John McLoughlin of Tower Hamlets Unison will appear at the event in a personal capacity. He said the verdict “rests on the idea that the Bangladeshi community are poorly educated and incapable of making decisions for themselves”.
The case was brought to court by a group of four voters, with the verdict handed down by Electoral Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC sitting as a judge at the High Court last Thursday.
According to his judgment, Mawrey found that “the conduct of Mr Rahman and his agents… in making grants does amount to the corrupt practice of bribery under s113 of the 1983 [Representation of the People] Act”.
He went on to describe the distribution of grants as “the bribery of the Bangladeshi electorate”.
Rahman has been ordered to pay £250,000 in legal costs and last year’s election result has been declared void after Mawrey found that Rahman’s campaign was fraught with “corrupt and illegal practices”.
Peter Perren, 54, a business consultant and Tower Hamlets resident, said he thought the trial was “entirely racially motivated” and Rahman had done “a lot of good for Tower Hamlets”.
Also supportive of Rahman was local Mallika Bedum, a 34-year-old sales advisor, who felt “personally sad” at the outcome and said she believed Rahman had contributed significantly to the community.
Rahman was first elected mayor in 2010 and has focused on the issue of affordable housing, delivering over 4,000 homes to low-income families since he was elected. He also oversaw the investment of £380 million in new and existing schools in the Tower Hamlets area.
Some residents, however, are unhappy with Rahman. An elderly woman from Stepney, who asked not to be named, said: “I know that he’s supposed to be crooked and it’s obvious that there’s something going on there.”
Rahman has received support from a 38 Degrees petition that has collected nearly 6,000 signatures to date. Its creators believe the case was politically charged and are urging people to resist the “anti-democratic coup in Tower Hamlets”.
The public event will be held at 6pm on Thursday, April 30 at the Waterlily Conference Centre on Mile End Road.