Denmark forbids burqa, niqab; rights group slam ban as unnecessary

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Women wearing niqab sit in the audience at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)
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Women wearing the islamic veil niqab sit in the audience seats of the Danish Parliament, at Christiansborg Castle, in Copenhagen, Denmark, Thursday May 31. 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
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Women wearing niqab sit in the audience at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)
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Women wearing niqab exit the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 31, 2018. (Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP)
Updated 01 June 2018
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Denmark forbids burqa, niqab; rights group slam ban as unnecessary

  • Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces.
  • Wearing a burqa, which covers a person’s entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).

STOCKHOLM/LONDON: Danish parliamentarians voted 75 to 30 on Thursday to ban garments that cover the face, and although the government denied the law was aimed at any religion, it is perceived to be directed chiefly at Muslim women.
Denmark is the latest European country to ban the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces in a move slammed by human rights campaigners as “a violation of women’s rights.”Human rights groups also said the law was “neither necessary nor proportionate.”
“Anyone who wears a garment that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine,” says the law, which was passed by 75 votes to 30 in the Danish parliament. Another 74 members of the Danish Parliament absented themselves from Thursday’s vote. 
Presented by the center-right government, the legislation was also backed by the Social Democrats and the far-right Danish People’s Party. 
The new rule will take effect on August 1.
Wearing a burqa, which covers a person’s entire face, or the niqab, which only shows the eyes, in public will lead to a fine of 1,000 kroner ($156, 134 euros).
The ban also targets other accessories that hide the face such as balaclavas and false beards. Repeated violations will be fined up to 10,000 kroner.
It is not known how many women wear the niqab and burqa in Denmark.
“I don’t think there are many who wear the burqa here in Denmark. But if you do, you should be punished with a fine,” Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen was quoted as saying by Ritzau news agency in February.
Amnesty International condemned the law as a “discriminatory violation of women’s rights,” especially against Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veils.
“Whilst some specific restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils for the purposes of public safety may be legitimate, this blanket ban is neither necessary nor proportionate and violates the rights to freedom of expression and religion,” the organization’s Europe director Gauri van Gulik said in a statement following the vote.
“If the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalizes women for their choice of clothing and in so doing flies in the face of those freedoms Denmark purports to uphold,” she added.
Supporters argue the ban enables better integration of Muslim immigrants into Danish society, claiming the garment is used to oppress women.
“Some people use (the full-face veil) to promote an ideology which, if successful, would mean many others would lose their right to freedom. It’s a matter of balance,” Martin Henriksen, spokesman for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, told Ritzau.

'I'd rather leave'
But Ayesha Haleem, a Pakistani woman who has been wearing the niqab for the past six years that she’s lived in Denmark, said no one, including her husband, forced her to wear it.
“Many people believe that men force us to wear the niqab or burqa. That’s completely wrong,” she told Danish public broadcaster DR.
“If I didn’t want to wear the niqab then I wouldn’t, even before meeting my husband,” Haleem said. “I’d rather leave the country than take my veil off.”
The full-face veil is a hot-button issue across Europe.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld a Belgian ban on wearing it in public.
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public places with a law that took effect in 2011.
German lawmakers approved a partial ban on “covering the face” last year.
According to that legislation, civil servants and officials including judges and soldiers must have their faces uncovered. People can also be required to remove facial coverings in order to match them with their identity papers.
Austria’s law on banning the full-face Muslim garment in public spaces came into force last year.

(With AFP)


Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

This combination of the Oct. 2, 2017 file photos shows Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

  • Evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins
  • The women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Southeast Asian women on trial in Malaysia for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother could be acquitted Thursday or called to enter their defense in a case that has gripped the world.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. If the defense is called, the trial could take several more months.
If the women are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could still appeal the decision as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Here’s a look at arguments that were raised during the trial:
THE PROSECUTION
Over the course of the six-month trial featuring testimony from 34 people, prosecutors laid out a bizarre murder plot they likened to something from a James Bond film.
They accused four North Koreans, suspected government agents with code names such as “Mr. Y” and “Grandpa” and later identified by police, of being the masterminds who recruited the women, trained them and provided them with VX. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed and none are in custody.
Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.
Investigators said the women were seen rushing to separate washrooms, each with their hands outstretched, before they fled the airport. Kim died within two hours of the attack.
A government chemist testified that the VX concentration found on Kim’s skin was 1.4 times greater than the lethal dosage. He said VX was found in Kim’s eyes, face, blood, urine and clothing, as well as on both women’s clothes and on Huong’s fingernail clippings.
In his closing arguments in June, prosecutor Wah Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the women must have been trained to use VX, a rare nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon. He said they had to know the best route for VX to enter the victim’s body and know that they must wash the nerve agent off themselves within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
With Kim a tall and heavy man, the prosecutor said the women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration. Despite their claim about a prank, he said their facial expressions and conduct during the attack didn’t reflect any humor.
“We expect that the defense will be called for a simple reason: They need to explain why VX was found on them,” Wan Shaharuddin told The Associated Press.

THE DEFENSE
Lawyers for the two women say their clients were simply pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
They say the prosecution’s case was too simplistic, handicapped by a sloppy investigation and failed to show any intention on the part of their clients to kill — key to establishing the women’s guilt.
The defense said evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins, pointing out that they didn’t wear gloves when applying VX, didn’t dispose of their tainted clothing and didn’t flee the country.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects. The four were captured by airport security cameras discarding their belongings and changing their clothing after the attack.
The North Korean Embassy has also been implicated with an embassy official helping get flights out for the four men and using the name of one of its citizens to buy a car that was used to take the suspects to the airport.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
“The prosecution’s evidence is purely circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said, noting that there was no proof that his client applied VX on Kim. He said his client’s DNA was not found on a shirt recovered by police.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said they have given prosecution “a good fight.”
“We are confident that justice will be served on Thursday and (Huong) will be acquitted,” he said.