Peter Dominiczak, London Evening Standard, May 17, 2012
A London councillor has been arrested for allegedly threatening to kill a rival in a packed town hall chamber.
The Labour politician was seized following the extraordinary confrontation last night with a woman councillor in the Olympic borough of Tower Hamlets.
Screams were heard coming from the town hall as the midnight debate descended into a “violent fracas”.
Kosru Uddin, 45, is said to have made death threats to Rania Khan, a supporter of Independent mayor Lutfur Rahman. Mr Uddin was still in custody today. One source, who was present at the meeting, said: “There was violence. It was just chaos.”
The clash is the latest political crisis to hit Tower Hamlets — dogged by allegations of voter fraud and claims that Mr Rahman is linked to groups supporting extremism.
It erupted at about 11.35pm after the chamber had been cleared of the public and press. One eyewitness said today it started when Ms Khan referred to Mr Uddin as a “chamcha” — a Bengali word which translates as spoon but is used to mean lackey or lickspittle.
Mr Uddin is then said to have had an angry confrontation in the council chamber with Ms Khan’s mother, Independent Limehouse councillor Lutfa Begum, over the use of the word. He is alleged to have threatened Ms Khan before the police were called.
Mr Rahman had been present earlier but is not thought to have been in the chamber at the time of the altercation. Independent councillor Ms Khan today said she was “on the verge of mentally and physically collapsing” following the clash. Sources today told the Evening Standard the mayhem unfolded after a disagreement about the appointment of a new chief executive.
Labour and Tory group members were arguing that the recruitment process had been “flawed” and refused to reach an agreement over the appointment of Aman Dalvi.
The borough has been dogged by political controversy in recent years. Mr Rahman was ousted from the Labour Party over alleged links to Islamic extremists before successfully fighting the mayoral election as an Independent candidate. He has denied all the allegations about his links to extremism.
It also emerged this month that the council was facing a police investigation into allegations of voter fraud during a by-election.
Ms Khan, who is the cabinet member for culture on the council, said she was “a bit shaken up” as a result of the confrontation.
She added: “I don’t want to say anything more than that at the moment because I don’t know how far it will go. I am on the verge of mentally and physically collapsing. It is just not right for me to be talking about it. I can’t deal with it at the moment.”
Councillor Peter Golds, the leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: “The meeting was extremely acrimonious and unpleasant. My group were out of the way when this incident happened.”
One source, who was present at the meeting, said: “There was a violent fracas. It was chaos. But frankly, we’ve seen worse in Tower Hamlets before. People have asked for the police to be called during meetings in the past.”
The Met said: “Tower Hamlets police arrested a 45-year-old man on suspicion of making threats to kill. It was in relation to an incident that occurred during a meeting at the town hall at about 11.35pm. The man is still in custody at an east London police station.”
A council spokesman said: “Following an alleged incident in the council chamber last night, we can confirm that the police were called. We understand they interviewed members of the council. We will be helping the police with their inquiries as required.”