Australia judge orders witness to remove niqab in court

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Woman wearing a niqab (generic)
Image caption,
The prosecution said not wearing a veil would affect the woman's confidence in court

An Australian judge has ruled that a Muslim woman must remove her full veil while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud case.

The judge in Perth said she did not consider it appropriate that the witness appear with her face covered.

The prosecution said the woman - identified only as Tasneem - would feel uncomfortable without her niqab, which would affect her evidence.

But the defence said the jury should be able to watch her facial expressions.

The 36-year-old woman's wish to wear the veil was a "preference", said defence lawyer Mark Trowell QC and was "not an essential part of the Islamic faith".

He said it was common for women to appear in Islamic courts without the covering, the Herald Sun reported.

Judge Shauna Deane ruled the woman should remove the niqab, though stressed she was not making a decision which should stand as a legal precedent.

It was simply her ruling in these circumstances, she said.

The judge also rejected the comparison with jurisdictions elsewhere, saying they were irrelevant because this was an Australian and not an Islamic court.

The woman is a witness in a case against the head of an Islamic school accused of gaining work funding by inflating student numbers.

She has lived in Australia for seven years and has worn the niqab since the age of 17, only removing it in front of her family and male blood relatives.

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