Sydney woman Moutia Elzahed sued the police and lost. Now she's appealing the decision on the basis she was barred from testifying due to her religious garb.
In November 2016, Muslim woman Moutia Elzahed was told she couldn't give evidence in court with her niqab on.
The case was about a police raid on her home in south-west Sydney, Australia, two years earlier, when police officers had broken open her door to execute a terrorism-related search warrant.
Elzahed, her husband Hamdi Alqudsi – who has been convicted of assisting men to travel to Syria to fight – and their two sons sued the police for damages over the raid, alleging violence and assault in the course of the search.
The family lost, and were ordered to pay $250,000 in court costs to the Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police.
But now, Elzahed is appealing the decision, arguing she suffered a miscarriage of justice during the trial when the judge ruled she could not testify with her face covered.
"What’s at issue here was the niqab," her lawyer, Jeremy Kirk SC, told the NSW Court of Appeal on Monday, describing his client’s religious garb.
He referenced a 2017 parliamentary stunt from Pauline Hanson, the leader of the right-wing anti-Islam party One Nation, in explaining how the niqab (which leaves the eyes uncovered) differs from the burqa (which covers the entire face).
"A burqa, your honours may have seen on television, that’s the thing Pauline Hanson put on in the Senate," Kirk told the court.
He said that his client wears the niqab as part of her deeply held religious beliefs.
Kirk took the court through the conversation that played out in the NSW District Court in November 2016 between judge Audrey Balla and lawyers representing Elzahed and the police.