Western Australian court to set precedent on the burqa

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

A court in Perth, Western Australia is set to deliver a verdict on whether an Islamic woman can testify while wearing a Burqa. The woman, who claims to be a devout Muslim, wishes not to show her face to men and says she might be too uncomfortable to give a sufficient testimony if uncovered in front of all the people in the courtroom.

District court judge Shaun Dean received submissions from both the prosecution and the defence lawyers on the case that the woman was set to testify in, requesting that the woman either be allowed to tesify in the traditional coverings or forced to do so without them. The Muslim Ladies College of Australia and its director, Anwar Sayed, were accused of acquiring both federal and state funding in a fraudulent manner to the amount of AU$1.13 million (US$1.02 million) and the woman was expected to testify regarding it.

Defence lawyers claim that valuable facial cues could be lost or hidden from the jury if the woman was to wear the Burqa while on the stand. Prosecutors stated that if the woman was expected to remove her covering, she would not be called as a witness.

It is speculated to be the first case of its kind in Australia and may set a legal precedent for future situations.