Help support Esha on trial for blasphemy by Rahila Gupta

I am now writing again to request your assistance in the case of a young woman “Esha” (24 years old) and her fiance, “Mo” who live in Lahore, Pakistan. She has been falsely accused of blasphemy, an allegation so serious that many people accused of it have been shot, burnt or imprisoned for years and even prominent individuals who have supported these cases have been killed in their turn. Many of you will remember the case of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, killed by his own security guard for having spoken out against the blasphemy law.
Religious groups take a keen interest in such cases, bring intense pressure to bear on everyone involved to bring a ‘guilty’ verdict. This has led to five changes of judges and her case is still pending in the lower courts. Mo is in hiding. Esha is suffering from depression and has already attempted suicide twice. Her living conditions in prison have been made worse because she has refused to submit to the superintendent’s sexual advances
After a number of incompetent lawyers, Mo has finally found a courageous and reputable lawyer, who defended Asia Bibi and  who is not charging the earth. He has agreed to take on the case for a fee of £5000, which is half the going rate.
Their lives have been blighted by this incident.  I enlisted the support of Amnesty but they do not have offices in Pakistan and were not able to provide ongoing support. They operate mainly by publicising cases but as publicity did not help Asia Bibi, who is still in prison, the advice we have been given by many human rights organisations working on the ground is that there is a greater chance of success if we allow the law to take its course. However, the law works at snail’s speed and the danger is Esha’s fragile mental health and the real possibility of a successful suicide attempt.
We have set a fundraising target of £10,000 because there are a number of associated welfare and living costs that will have to be met should Esha be given bail. Currently the well known human rights lawyer, Asma Jehangir, is dealing with her bail application.

 

“Esha” a 24 year old woman has been cut off from the world in her prime and is languishing in a Pakistani prison for the last three years on false charges of blasphemy brought against her by her best friend after they had an argument. She stands accused of having torn pages from the Qur’an and having slept on them. Although there have been several hearings, her trial  is still pending  for a complex variety of reasons – one of them being that there have been five different judges, each fearing for his life.

She has no family to take an interest in her except for a dedicated young man, “Mo”, whom she met on a visit to court and who, on hearing her story and seeing her isolation, has been trying to support her. Blasphemy is a serious offence in a deeply religious country like Pakistan and punishable by death. Blasphemy laws have been used to persecute minorities like the Christians or to settle personal scores. Several prominent people have been killed  for supporting those accused of blasphemy. Only recently a Christian couple were burnt alive for allegedly desecrating the Qur’an.

“Mo” has gone into hiding after he  received death threats. He is unable to work now and therefore, unable to raise the kind of fees that are charged by lawyers. For this kind of case, the fees are extremely high because of the danger posed to anyone associated with it. This is why we cannot use their real names.

She is being sexually harassed by the superintendent of the prison. As she has rejected his advances, he has withdrawn all basic privileges such as medicines, visitors, even a  mattress to sleep on. She is locked up 24/7 in a cell that is not heated in the winter and not cooled in the summer when temperatures can reach a baking 45c! She has attempted suicide twice and her poor mental health is a cause of real worry. She has stomach ulcers, skin allergies and kidney problems as well.

“Esha” and “Mo” are completely trapped.  ‘Esha’ says ‘I have lost all faith in society. I have been cut off from life, from the world, from education. I have lost the will to live.’

Although it is vital to Esha’s mental health that she leaves  prison, if her bail hearing is successful, neither of them have any money even for rent or food. Mo’s own family feel he’s wasting his life and are threatening to cut him off.  He says, ‘I was 27 when I met Esha. I have spent all my life savings on her. My life is in danger from extremists and I have lost family, friends and peace of mind. Why am I doing this?’

This money will go towards Esha’s legal fees and associated expenses for a lawyer who is highly recommended. “Mo” is desperate to get the legal case on the road before “Esha’s” next attempt on her life.

Please donate as generously as you can.  The money will be used to pay legal fees and welfare costs.

GoFundMe

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