French court case to challenge full-face veil ban


A French court will begin hearing arguments Wednesday in a case that will challenge the country’s ban on wearing full-face veils in public, with lawyers arguing that the 2011 veil ban is discriminatory and unconstitutional.


A French court will begin hearing arguments Wednesday in a case that will challenge the legality of the country’s ban on wearing full-face veils.

A lawyer for Cassandra Belin, who was arrested in July for wearing the veil, will contend that the 2011 law banning the veil is discriminatory and unconstitutional when he appears before the Versailles court just outside Paris.

"She does not want to be wrongly perceived as the symbol of a supposed rampant Islamisation," lawyer Philippe Bataille said of his client, who will not be present at Wednesday’s hearing.

Belin, 20, who converted to Islam five years ago, was stopped by police in the town of Trappes west of Paris on July 18, during the Ramadan fasting month, for wearing the veil.

An altercation ensued and her husband, Michael Khiri, was accused of insulting a police officer and arrested. He was later found guilty and received a three-month suspended sentence.

His sentencing sparked riots in Trappes, which has a large immigrant population. Hundreds of protesters torched cars, destroyed bus stops and hurled stones at police in two nights of violence.

Belin went on trial in October for defying the ban and insulting a police officer, but her lawyer launched a constitutional challenge to the charges and the Versailles court agreed to consider arguments that the law is unconstitutional.

Bataille says the ban infringes on freedom of religion, freedom of movement and goes against human dignity. He also says that routine identity checks were being misused by some police officers to harrass veiled women.

‘Testing France’s institutions’

The controversial ban on face coverings was introduced in 2011 on the grounds that garments concealing a person’s identity can pose a security threat.

A guide to the four main types of Muslim veil

All full-face coverings, including ski masks, are banned under the law. But many believe the legislation in fact seeks to target the Islamic veil, with some arguing that motorcycle helmets also cover the face.

Belin has admitted to telling the police officers to "shut up" but denied saying, "Allah will exterminate you" as has been claimed.

The police officers' lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, has said that the case against his clients involves a "small group of radical elements” that is “testing the institutions" of France – which is officially secular – under the guise of religious freedom.

In a parallel case, one of the three officers involved in the Belin incident is being investigated for using Islamophobic language on Facebook and for "inciting hatred and racial discrimination", which is against the law in France.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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