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Bologna

Trainee lawyer ejected over Muslim veil in Bologna (4)

Judge criticised, defended for enforcing covered head norm

Trainee lawyer ejected over Muslim veil in Bologna (4)

Bologna, January 17 - A Moroccan-born trainee lawyer was ejected from an Emilia-Romagna regional administrative court (TAR) hearing because she was wearing the Muslim veil Wednesday. Twenty-five-year-old Asmae Belfakir was asked by the judge either to remove the hijab or leave the courtroom. Belkafir, the legal representative of Bologna's Islamic community, chose to leave. A note pinned up outside the room said "anyone who takes part in or attends the hearing cannot carry weapons or sticks and must have an uncovered head and keep silent." The Bologna Islamic community said "it is urgent that the competent authorities clear up this case". Community coordinator Yassine Lafram said "there are no laws banning the veil in a courtroom" and said the judge had voiced an "arbitrary position". The organisation of young Italian lawyers (AIGA) said the judge's action had been "inconceivable" and "against constitutional principles". It voiced solidarity with the young trainee. The Bologna branch of the Italian lawyers' guild also voiced sympathy with Belkafir. It said the judge's action was "illegitimate, gravely discriminatory and restrictive of the right to exercise one's profession, as well as injurious to the dignity of the individual professional and the whole legal community". Edoardo Patriarca of the ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) asked "what would have happened if it had been a nun". He said "the case of the young Moroccan in court in a hijab seems paradoxical to me. "Once you have identified the person, what was the problem with her wearing the veil? "If it had been a nun, would she, too, have been asked to remove her veil?" The leftwing Free and Equal (LeU) party urged the judiciary's self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM), to overrule the judge, saying "freedom to express one's religion should be upheld". But Galeazzo Bignami of Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party said those who criticised the judge "evidently don't know Article 129 of the code of civil procedure which lays down that those who take part in hearings must have their heads uncovered". The Council of State, Italy's highest administrative court, said it would ask the TAR judge to explain why he ejected the trainee. The president of the Council of State, Alessandro Pajno, asked the secretary-general to ask the TAR judge for a "detailed report on what happened in order to be able to make a thorough assessment of the facts". The judge in the case, Giancarlo Mozzarelli, declined to comment. Belkafir, the trainee who was ejected, has a degree in law from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, with a thesis on women's bodies and Islamic law. She was chosen as a trainee by the legal office of the Emilian university. Some of her statements on these issues can be found on the Internet.

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