Muslim woman removes niqab for Perth fraud trial -- after men ejected from court
A MUSLIM woman who sparked a national debate when she asked if she could give evidence in a Perth court wearing a niqab, has uncovered her face to give evidence in a fraud trial. Tasneem, whose last name has been suppressed by the Perth District Court, gave evidence for just 15 minutes on Monday in the trial of Anwar Sayed.
Sayed is accused of falsifying student numbers at the Muslim Ladies College of Australia in Kenwick, in Perth's south, to fraudulently obtain part of $1.125 million the school received in state and federal government grants.
The 50-year-old, from nearby Canningvale, is the director of Muslim Link Australia, which runs the school.
He allegedly knowingly signed a declaration that in the 2006/07 census year, more than 180 students were enrolled in the school when there were 80 to 100 fewer than that. The school received about $164,000 from the state government and about $961,000 from the federal government.
Tasneem, 36, has worn a niqab since the age of 17 and wanted to wear it while giving evidence in the trial.
But Judge Shauna Deane in August ruled she must remove the niqab so that the jury could read her facial expressions.
Tasneem only removes the niqab when she visits the doctor and dentist, at customs in airports and when she has her driver's licence photograph taken.
Otherwise, the only males to see her without it are her husband, children and blood relatives.
Judge Deane on Friday ruled that to make it easier for Tasneem to give evidence comfortably, men would be removed from the court. The only men allowed in the courtroom while she gave her evidence were male jurors, the judge's usher, Sayed and the lawyers.
While female journalists were allowed to stay in the court to report on Tasneem's evidence, male journalists were ejected.
A lawyer representing Network Ten and the Seven and Nine networks made an application on Friday to alter the order so that male journalists could remain in court, but the application was rejected.
Giving evidence via video link on Monday, Tasneem appeared comfortable, flanked by a security person and a support person, both of whom were female.
During her brief evidence she explained that she worked at the school as an Islamic studies teacher for two hours a day, five days a week.
Tasneem said that "from time to time" some students would go overseas on holiday or to visit family, mostly in Afghanistan, so it was possible they were enrolled at the school, but did not attend for long periods of time.