Muslim woman allowed to wear veil in British court

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A British judge ruled on Monday that a Muslim woman will be allowed to go on trial wearing a full-face veil, or niqab, but must take it off while giving evidence.

The decision, which involves a 22-year-old woman from London, was considered a legal first in the country.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had argued that removing the niqab against her wishes would breach her human rights and religious beliefs, while also countering Britain's tolerance of Islamic dress, according to Agence France-Presse.

Sitting at London's Blackfriars Crown Court, Judge Peter Murphy said: "In general, the defendant is free to wear the niqab during trial.

"If the defendant gives evidence she must remove the niqab throughout her evidence."

Judge Murphy also said in his ruling that concealing the face would "drive a coach and horses through the way justice has been administered in England and Wales for centuries."

He added: "The court may use its inherent powers to do what it can to alleviate any discomfort, for example by allowing the use of screens or allowing her to give evidence by live link."

Referring to the woman only as "D", the judge said she had only worn the veil since May 2012 but his decision would have been the same if she had worn it for years.

According to local media, the woman had taken the veil off in a back room to be formally identified by a woman police officer.

She entered a not guilty plea to a charge of intimidation last week while wearing a niqab after the judge backed down from a previous decision that she would have to show her face to be properly identified, AFP reported.

(With AFP)

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