Australian state toughens Muslim veils law

Muslim women in Australia’s most populous state will have to remove veils to have their signatures officially witnessed, under the latest laws giving New South Wales officials authority to look under religious face coverings.

State attorney general Greg Smith said that from April 30, officials such as JPs and lawyers who witness statutory declarations or affidavits without making identity checks will be fined 220 Australian dollars (€178).

The laws are a response to a notorious court case last year in which a Sydney woman was convicted of falsely claiming that a traffic policeman had attempted to remove her niqab – a veil that reveals only the eyes.

A judge overturned the conviction because the official who witnessed the false claim did not look under the veil of the person who made it, so the judge was not certain that the defendant was responsible.

The latest laws were passed on December 23 by the state parliament. They follow New South Wales laws passed last year that introduced a €4,475 fine for anyone who refuses to remove face coverings when requested by police.

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