Locked in a cellar where she was allegedly raped and beaten for nearly a decade, a young deaf and mute Pakistani woman told a UK court today how she was trafficked into Britain and forced to work as a virtual slave. The woman, whose age is not known, said she was around 10 when she was brought to the northern city of Manchester as a domestic servant in 2000.
She cannot be identified for legal reasons. A Pakistani couple, 83-year-old Ilyas Ashar and his wife, 66-year-old Tallat Ashar, are charged with false imprisonment, human trafficking, sexual offences, violence and benefit fraud. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Speaking through an interpreter and using sign language, the woman -- thought to be 19 or in her 20s -- described how she was allegedly hit with a rolling pin while forced to work for no money, made to sleep on a concrete floor in a bolted cellar and sexually abused.
When prosecutors showed her a picture of Ilyas Ashar, she said: "He's the one who has sex with me." She said Ashar's wife would repeatedly strike her with her ring, sometimes when she made too much noise by setting dishes on the table. "I would be down in the cellar, sitting alone and very upset," she said. "I would sit there for a long, long time, really upset and crying. I could not get out." The girl was rescued after a joint police raid in 2009. It wasn't immediately clear if other government agencies were investigating the couple or why.
The couple are also accused of allegedly claiming benefits in her name but withholding any proceeds. It isn't immediately clear how the couple were able to bring the girl to Britain.
The Border Agency, which falls under control of the Home Office, had no immediate comment as to how the girl would have been allowed into the country as a domestic servant or whether the matter was being investigated, but a spokeswoman said she would look into the matter. The trial continues in Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester.