Defiant Muslim woman on trial in Britain refuses to remove niqab

Rebekah Dawson, on trial for allegedly intimidating a securtiy officer, arrives at Blackfriars Crown Court in Central London. (Photo Courtesy: The Daily Mail)

A Muslim woman accused of intimidating a security guard at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London decided not to take the stand in her defense after a judge ruled she would have to remove her niqab, The Daily Mail reported.

While judge Peter Murphy said that defendant Rebekah Dawson, who wears a full-face veil, was 'fully entitled' to wear what she wanted in court, British law requires that the jury must see the faces of those giving evidence.

The judge offered the defendant a choice to give evidence from behind a screen shielding her from public view, but not from the view of the judge, the jury, and counsel; or by mean of a live TV link, but Dawson declined.

Her lawyer, Susan Meek, said she recognized the decision might adversely affect Dawson's trial.

'She was given a choice by the judge - she either gave evidence with the niqab off or she remained in the dock with it on. She has remained in the dock," said Meek.

The 22 year old is on trial with her brother, Matthias Dawson, 32 for allegedly intimidating security guard Daudi Yusuf at a mosque after an incident allegedly occurred between him and Ms. Dawson's husband.

Both defendants deny the charges.

Ms. Dawson's lawyer reminded the jury that the trial was, "not about the niqab, the niqab is not on trial in this courtroom. This is a woman accused of a criminal offense who happens to wear a niqab."

Debate over whether a niqab can be worn in court lies in two conflicting legislations.

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) gives the defendant a right to manifest his or her religion or belief, wording that would seemingly allow the presence of a face-covering veil.

However, the country's law requires jurors to see the faces of a person giving evidence.

In an apparent effort to respect the ECHR's sentiments about freedom of religious manifestation, the judge stated that "no drawing, sketch or other image of any kind of the defendant while her face is uncovered be made in court, or disseminated, or published outside court.”

The trial is set to continue today when the jury is meant to issue its verdict.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42
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