ISLAMABAD: A group of civil society activists and members of public gathered outside the National Press Club on Saturday to protest against what they called character assassination and propaganda against model Ayyan Ali.
Ayyan was arrested from Benazir Bhutto International Airport with on charges of money laundering after she failed to declare over $500,000 found in her luggage and was sent to Adiala Jail on judicial remand on May 14, 2015.
She has been behind bars since then.
Read: Money laundering: LHC to hear Ayyan’s bail plea today
Saturday’s protest was organised by Uzma Osho of the AASS Foundation and was also attended by the suspect’s lawyer, Khurram Latif Khosa.
Protesters held placards calling for “Justice for Ayyan Ali”. Some posters demanded an end to “character assassination and mistreatment” of the model on social media. They also chanted, “Free Ayyan Ali”.
“As a lawyer, I believe in the equal rights for all citizens and Ayyan is no different. She has been a cultural ambassador for Pakistan and is a celebrity, but is being mistreated,” said Khosa.
He said women charged with murder had been granted bail, but his client was not.
Khosa also emphasised the difference between a suspect and a convict. He also denounced reports linking Ayyan with some politicians.
Protest organiser Uzma Osho said, “This is not just about Ayyan, but about all women.
No woman’s personal character should be abused because of a legal case. There are insulting tweets about her neckline, tattoos and choice of perfume, which are irrelevant and degrading.”
“As a woman, I have a soft corner for Ayyan. She is a human being and should be given the respect a woman deserves,” said Sadaf Adnan, an educationist.
Read: Ayyan’s case part of wider conspiracy, says lawyer
Meanwhile, after the protest ended, some of the younger protesters told
The Express Tribune that they were residents of a nearby slum area and were paid Rs500 each to show up and take part in the demonstration.
Speaking in the court at last hearing on Monday, the model said she was being denied her basic rights as suspects arrested for laundering Rs25 crore and Rs16 crore were granted bail but her bail applications have been rejected.
Ali’s bail petitions have been rejected twice, once each by the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Bench and Lahore High Court.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.