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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Vote scandal councillor cleared
Muhammed Afzal has been cleared of vote rigging allegations
A former Birmingham Labour Party councillor accused of being one of the ringleaders of a "widespread vote- rigging fraud" has cleared his name.

Muhammed Afzal, who represented Aston, was accused of collecting postal votes in 2004's English local council elections by forgery and deception.

But the Court of Appeal quashed the findings of Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC on Tuesday.

The judges are to give their reasons for the decision at a later date.

Ruling amended

On Tuesday Lord Phillips said Judge Mawrey's ruling would have to be amended to delete any reference to Mr Afzal being personally guilty of corrupt and illegal practices involving postal voting.

Local Liberal Democrats had petitioned against Mr Afzal and two other former councillors, who represented Aston, saying they had used forgery and deception to collect votes.

A case was also brought by the pro-Kashmir People's Justice Party against three former Labour representatives for Bordesley Green which led to the first UK Election Court being held in living memory.

Judge Mawrey ruled last month that there had been "widespread fraud" in the six Birmingham council seats won by Labour in 2004.

Following Tuesday's hearing at the Court of Appeal Mr Afzal can now vote at the General Election but cannot stand as a councillor in the forthcoming by-election in Aston, Birmingham, because of general corruption surrounding the poll which did not involve him.

'British justice'

He will be free to stand at future elections.

But Judge Mawrey's ruling - that two other councillors in Aston were involved in illegal practices - remains.

The deputy High Court judge ordered new elections to take place in Aston and Bordesley Green in April this year after upholding allegations of postal fraud over seats won by Labour in the ballot of 10 June 2004.

Ramby de Mello, representing Mr Afzal at Tuesday's hearing, said his client had not had a fair trial at the election court.

Speaking after the Court of Appeal ruling Mr Afzal said: "I am glad I have been vindicated by the Court of Appeal.

"I have always believed in British justice and justice has been done to me. It has been proved that I have done nothing wrong."



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