Thursday, September 22, 2011

Two Women Fined for Covering Faces

September 22, 2011

The new "burqa ban" in France has produced its first trial and convictions: Two women who staged a protest in May will have to pay fines. One defendant on Thursday promised to bring her case before the European Court of Human Rights.

A court in suburban Paris on Thursday handed out fines to the first two women tried in France for violating a ban on wearing face-covering garments in public.

Hind Ahmas, 32, and Najate Naitali, 36, were both cited in May for wearing niqabs, traditional Muslim face veils, while trying to enter the Meaux town hall with a birthday cake for the mayor. Meaux is a suburb of Paris, and its mayor, Jean-Francois Cope, helped push the "burqa ban" through France's parliament last year. He also leads President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party.

Ahmas received a €120 ($161) fine on Thursday and vowed to bring her case up before the European Court of Human Rights. Naitali received an €80 fine in absentia -- after having been denied entry for refusing to take off her niqab.

"(This) violates European laws," Ahmas told reporters after the hearing in Meaux. "For us, the question isn't the amount of the fine but the principle. We can't accept that women are sentenced because they are freely expressing their religious beliefs."

They reportedly carried an almond cake for Mayor Cope as part of a symbolic protest, as the French words for both "almonds" and "fines" sound similar.