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Labour MP Apsana Begum has been cleared of fraud charges in a court case in London.
The Poplar and Limehouse MP faced three counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information relating to a council housing application between 2013 and 2016.
Ms Begum, 31, collapsed and wept in the dock as jurors found her not guilty of all three charges.
During the trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, she told how she had fled her family home in 2013 after an argument during which her brother claimed she was “possessed”, leading her to fear honour-based violence.
Speaking after her acquittal, she described herself as a survivor of domestic abuse subject to “vexatious” allegations. And she revealed she had been the victim of sexist, racist and Islamophobic abuse online in the 18 months since the case against her began.
Ms Begum made clear her intention to continue serving as MP for the east London seat, where she was first elected in December 2019.
The not guilty verdict lifts the threat to Keir Starmer of a potentially awkward by-election in a seat where it was thought that George Galloway might make another attempt to seize a traditionally solid Labour constituency with a large Muslim electorate.
Ms Begum was accused of withholding information about her living circumstances to jump the queue for a council house. Tower Hamlets Council, which is bringing the prosecution, alleged it cost the local authority £63,928.
The court heard she first applied to go on the council’s social housing register in 2011 and was placed on the priority housing list after claiming to be living in an “overcrowded” three-bedroom house in Poplar with five members of her family and without her own room.
The prosecution said that forms submitted by her mother and aunt showed that there were in fact four bedrooms in the property and that she had failed to tell the council that byJanuary 2013 there were only four people living at the address after her father died and her aunt moved out.
Ms Begum said it was a period of turmoil during which she was struggling to come to terms with her father’s death and her Bangladeshi-heritage family’s disapproval of her relationship with her former partner, Tower Hamlets councillor Ehtasham Haque.
Ms Begum’s defence lawyer, Helen Law also claimed that the complaint which triggered the investigation of Begum, made in 2019 by Sayed Nahid Uddin – Mr Haque’s brother-in-law – after the couple split was “false”.
In a statement after her acquittal, Ms Begum claimed the case against her had been driven by “malicious intent” and had caused her “great distress”.
She said: “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.
“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.”
She added: “I will be consulting and considering how to follow up so that something like this doesn’t happen again to anyone else.”
The court heard she left the property in May 2013 due to her family’s growing hostility towards her desire to marry Mr Haque, who was seven years her senior and twice divorced.
Giving evidence during the trial, an emotional Ms Begum said she had visited a police station to make a report about her brother following her to work and said she feared becoming the victim of honour-based violence.
She told the court she returned home on the same day and was locked in the living room by her brother, who said he thought she should visit an imam because he believed she was “possessed”.
Ms Begum said she managed to call 999 and fled the house with only her handbag. Days later she was told to pick up her belongings, which had been put in black bin bags outside the house.
Ms Begum and Mr Haque then were married in an Islamic ceremony before she moved in with him.
Additional reporting by Press Association