Woman's trial postponed as lawyer challenges France's burka ban

Oct. 31, 2013 at 8:49 AM
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VERSAILLES, France, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- A lawyer challenged the constitutionality of France's burka ban in his defense of a woman whose arrest for violating the ban sparked riots earlier this year.

A court in Versailles postponed the trial of Cassandra Belin until Dec. 11 so it could consider the defense's claim the charges against her are unconstitutional, Radio France Internationale reported Wednesday.

Belin, who was not present when the trial began Wednesday, is charged with violating the ban on wearing the Islamic face covering and insulting a police officer.

Her defense team requested the country's Constitutional Council review the law.

France's controversial ban on face-covering garments because they could pose a security threat went into effect in 2010. It has been criticized as targeting garments such as the burka and the niqab, worn by some Muslim women.

Attorney Philippe Bataille says his client's case raises other questions, RFI said.

"The Constitutional Council did not take into account the law's discriminatory character, nor its restrictions on personal dignity and on freedoms of movement and religion," he told RFI. "I also do not understand how a person veiled in the street poses a threat to public safety. So, I'm hoping to convince the court that a constitutional review of the case is in order. If I succeed, I should hope the Constitutional Council reviews the law itself."

Riots erupted in Trappes, near Paris, in July after Belin, who converted to Islam at 15, was stopped by police for wearing the veil in public, and her husband, Michael Khiri, was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer.

Khiri was found guilty and sentenced to a three-month suspended sentence.

RFI said two police officers, including the one involved in the incident, have been investigated for using Islamophobic language on Facebook. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to take them to court.

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