A French police court slapped fines on women for wearing the full-face covering Islamic niqab veil for the first time on Thursday, in a case that could have legal implications across Europe.
Police have issued several on-the-spot fines since the ban came into effect in April but the hearing saw the first two court-issued fines, and the pair vowed to appeal their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
France is not the only country to try to ban the Muslim full-face veil — Belgium and some Italian cities have similar laws while other countries are planning to follow suit — so a European ruling could have broad effect.
The court in the northern cheese-making town of Meaux ordered Hind Ahmas (32), to pay a €120 fine, while Najate Nait Ali (36), was fined €80. It did not order them to take a citizenship course, as the prosecutor had requested.
The two veiled women arrived too late to attend the court hearing, but addressed journalists in front of the building.
“We've been sentenced under a law that violates European law. For us, it's not about the size of the fine, but the principle. We can't allow women to be convicted for freely following their religious beliefs,” said Ms. Ahmas.
The young woman, who comes from the troubled Paris immigrant suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, called the ruling a “semi-victory” since it opened the way for a series of appeals she hopes will lead to the law's abolition.
Yann Gre from the “Don't Touch My Constitution” group that is defending the two women, said that they would appeal.