Amira Behari, a 43-year-old Muslim woman, appeared before a Munich court after she accused a man of verbally abusing her at a train station last year. Behari wore a full face veil with her eyes being her only visible facial feature. The judge in the case asked her to remove the veil or risk facing jail for contempt of court reports Stern.de.
The incident involved a man called ‘Kai O’ who Behari says told her to “go back to where you belong” and called her an undisclosed epithet. Judge Thomas Mueller said in November at the first hearing of the case that he wished to see her face without the veil covering it. He claimed he needed to be able to read her emotions, saying: “I need to see you otherwise there will be considerable problems in adjudicating your case.”
Behari was unwilling to remove her veil and told the court that Islam forbid her showing her face to men who were not related or her husband and added “ I have a God at the end of the world who will see me right at the end. I will not do this.”
The comment gave the judge no choice but to find the man accused of the insults not guilty as he gave up attempting to get Behari to remove the veil in court. Behari was dressed in a long leather coat and gloves along with her niqab revealing only her eyes.
The verdict of not guilty led to German judges and prosecutors to appeal the verdict. They claimed that the judge had not given Behari a fair trial and that the case should be reheard. The appeal was successful but the issue still remains for Behari to remove her veil. This time the original charges against ‘Kai O’ will not be dropped, but rather new charges will be brought forward if she does not cooperate with the court.
Behari has until March 17th , when the new case is scheduled, to decide on which course of action she will take in the matter.
In the UK full face veils have been allowed in courts since Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, announced in 2014 that Muslim women would be able to give testimony under oath while wearing the niqab. This caused controversy among Britons who regarded the special treatment of Muslims in the justice system as unfair.
Prime Minister David Cameron also came under fire earlier this year when he gave support to banning the full face veil in public arenas including courts. Calling such a move “proper and sensible,” he said: “When you are coming into contact with an institution or you’re in court, or if you need to be able to see someone’s face at the border, then I will always back the authority and institution that have put in place proper and sensible rules.”