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Defendant in French burqa ban trial sent home – for wearing burqa

Country/Region: Europe, France

One of the first two women to be summoned before a court in Europe for allegedly wearing face coverings was denied entry because she refused to remove her burqa.

Meaux_4X3.jpg
The trial of the two women was due to take place in Meaux

Najet and Hind, who refuse to identify themselves beyond their first names, were due to appear before a judge in a French court.

Both women, who are from the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, have been accused of violating France’s ban on the wearing of full-face veils and other face coverings in public, which was introduced in April. The first ban of its kind in Europe, it means that anyone wearing the Muslim niqab or burqa in public could now be fined or required to take lessons in French citizenship. The women were arrested in Meaux on 5 May after travelling to a “burqa-ban” protest.

When Hind, a 31-year-old mother, tried to enter the court building in Meaux, police held her back, telling her to take her head-covering off. Najet, meanwhile, stayed at home, saying that she knew she would be stopped from entering.

A police commissioner told Hind, “For the hearing to go ahead, you must remove the veil. Justice must be administered in a calm atmosphere.”

Police are under strict orders not to remove face coverings themselves, meaning that when Hind refused to remove her veil she was simply told to leave. The women’s court appearance was abandoned as state prosecutors began trying to work out how they can deal with the challenge to the new law. They are expected to come to a decision in September.

Both women deny the charge of covering their faces in a public place, saying that the burqa ban is “unconstitutional”.

A group of around 80 women were at the Meaux court, supporting their “sisters” and saying that they would take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, rather than see the defendants punished for what they chose to wear.

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