Couple deny locking girl in cellar

First published in North of England news

A man has denied forcing a young girl to live in the cellar of his home where she was beaten, raped and treated as his virtual slave.

Ilyas Ashar, 83, rejected claims he abused the girl and told a court she was “happy” to work for him and he treated her like a daughter.

The alleged victim, an orphan from Pakistan who is profoundly deaf and cannot speak, was used and abused by Ashar and his wife due to her vulnerability, a jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester has heard.

She was first trafficked into the UK in June 2000 when aged around 10, though her exact age is not known.

And for almost a decade the girl, now aged 19 or 20, was forced to live and work in the cellar, where she was locked-up each night and slept on a concrete floor.

Although supposed to be employed as a domestic help, she was never paid and just given food and lodging at their home in Cromwell Road, Eccles in Salford, the court heard.

Kept as a virtual prisoner, the girl was made to cook, clean, do the washing and ironing for the Ashars and clean the houses and cars of their family and friends, the court heard.

She was also kept in the cellar to work for hours packing football shirts, clothes and mobile phone covers.

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has told the jury she was regularly slapped, beaten and raped.

But today, Ilyas Ashar denied ever mistreating his alleged victim or sexually abusing her.

Ashar, and his wife, Tallat Ashar, 66, have pleaded not guilty to charges of false imprisonment, human trafficking, sexual offences, violence and benefit fraud.

Today, giving evidence from the witness box, Ashar said he treated the girl like one of his daughters and he was physically incapable of rape anyway.

Peter Cadwallader, prosecuting, said to the witness; “You wanted her as a domestic servant and for your own sexual pleasure?”

”That is not true - I’m unable to do it,” he replied.

Mr Cadwallader asked, that if he had never raped the girl, how she could possibly know details like the fact that the witness was circumcised and shaved his pubic area.

Ashar said “everybody” was like that in Pakistan because that is the Muslim tradition in that country.

”You have exploited her by forcing her to work. Made her work for you and your wife,” Mr Cadwallader continued.

”She never made her work,” the defendant replied. “She’s happy to do the work, to help. We treated her like a family member, or daughters.”

Mr Cadwallader added: “Locked her in the cellar?”

”Absolutely not,” the witness said.

”Being bolted in, that’s right?”

”Never, never,” Ashar replied.

Mr Cadwallader added: “You sexually abused her ... and that also included raping her.”

”Never in my life. Absolutely not,” the witness said.

”What she told this court is the truth and it’s you that is lying,” the prosecutor said.

”It’s absolutely she that’s lying,” the defendant replied.

Ilyas and Tallat Ashar both deny two counts of human trafficking into the UK for exploitation and a single count of false imprisonment.

Ilyas also denies 12 counts of rape, Tallat denies one count of sexual assault and unlawful wounding and the pair and their daughter Faaiza, 44, all deny charges of benefit fraud.

The trial continues on Monday.

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