An Australian court has ruled that a Muslim woman must remove her burka while she gives evidence so that the jury can #$%$ her facial expressions.
Bonnie Malkin in Sydney Published: 1:57PM BST 19 Aug 2010
The full Islamic veil covers the whole body except the eyes and hands Photo: GETTY Judge Shauna Deane of the Perth District Court said that it was "inappropriate" for the woman, only identified as Tasneem, to have her face covered while testifying in the A$752,000 (£433,000) fraud trial.
Lawyers for Tasneem, 36, had asked the judge to allow her to give evidence while wearing the burka because she had not removed the veil in public as an adult and would find the experience highly stressful.
Muslim woman sparks burka debate in Australian court case
Mark Ritter, prosecuting, told the court that Tasneem, who emigrated to Australia seven years ago, had worn the garment since she was 17. He said she wanted to give evidence but would feel uncomfortable without the burka and that could prejudice the way she presented her evidence. "It goes beyond stress, it would have a negative impact," he said. However, the defence raised concerns about how the jury could #$%$ her credibility if they could not see her face. They argued that wearing the garment was a cultural, not a religious, choice and that even in Islamic courts women were required to remove the veil.
Judge Deane has ruled that she would ban the woman from wearing her burka, or niqab, to give evidence in court.
"I do not consider it to be appropriate to let the witness give evidence at trial while wearing the niqab," she said.
The judge made her decision on the grounds that it would ensure a fair trial for Anwar Sayed, the former director of a Muslim school who is accused of fraudulently obtaining state and federal grants by falsifying roll numbers in 2006.