Brit Muslim minister sues over claim of intimidating voters

London, Nov. 13: Britain's first Muslim Government minister has launched a libel battle in the High Court over claims that he organised "gangs of Asian thugs" to intimidate voters in a local election.

International Development Minister Shahid Malik is said to have "overseen and directed" up to 200 Asian Labour activists to help secure victory for a Muslim councillor.

According to the Daily Mail, the men are said to have breached electoral rules by escorting voters to the polling station while telling them in Urdu to choose the Muslim Labour candidate.

Former Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott made the allegations in a letter to the Dewsbury Press newspaper after he was unseated as a local councillor.

It describes how "Malik's ethnic entourage behaved no better than BNP thugs" on polling day in the Dewsbury South ward of Kirklees Council.

The letter went on to claim that, "Malik convinced local Asian voters to vote for Labour candidates... on the grounds that those candidates were 'Muslim brothers'".

Malik said the letter was "his worst nightmare", and added: "In my line of work, if your integrity is damaged you have nothing left. "

Malik's lawyer Adam Wolanksi said the allegations were untrue and caused the 39-year-old MP for Dewsbury to be seen as "a racist and dangerous extremist who is unfit to hold public office".

Malik was the first British-born Muslim MP when he won the Dewsbury seat in 2005. He had previously worked on quangos.

His constituency has experienced significant ethnic tension. It has shown strong support for the British National Party and was the hometown of the lead 7/7 bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan.

The independently-owned Dewsbury Press says the issues Malik complains about are true and that the legal action he has brought is an affront to the paper's freedom of speech.

Its publisher, editor and Scott have denied indulging in libel. The hearing of the case continues. (ANI)

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