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Muslim Woman Must Remove Veil In Court

A Muslim woman will be allowed to stand trial wearing a full-face veil - but must remove it while giving evidence, a judge has ruled.

Lawyers for the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had argued it would breach her human rights and be counter to Britain's tolerance of Islamic dress to remove her niqab against her wishes.

But Judge Peter Murphy, sitting at London's Blackfriars Crown Court, said: "In general, the defendant is free to wear the niqab during trial.

"If the defendant gives evidence she must remove the niqab throughout her evidence.

"The court may use its inherent powers to do what it can to alleviate any discomfort, for example by allowing the use of screens or allowing her to give evidence by live link."

The issue of whether women should be forced to remove their veil in public has been subject to recent political discussion.

Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne has called for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.

Downing Street has suggested the Prime Minister supports the possibility of public institutions being allowed to set their own rules on dress, but does not believe Parliament "should legislate on what people do and don't wear on their local high street".

Mr Browne's intervention came after a row erupted over the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to drop a ban on the wearing of full-face veils amid public protests.

The minister said he was "instinctively uneasy" about restricting religious freedoms, but said there may be a case to act to protect girls who were too young to decide for themselves whether they wished to wear the veil or not.

Party leader Nick Clegg has told Sky News he did not think the full veil was appropriate for airport security or the classroom, but said he strongly felt people in Britain should not be told how to dress.