“Remove your niqab” Judge refuses to hear Muslim woman”s evidence until she takes off veil


Judge Audrey Balla said the ruling, the first of its kind in the country, was necessary because the veil prevented him from reading Moutia Elzahed’s expression.

Ms Elzahed refused a number of alternatives, including the court being closed to the public, as she gave evidence or the opportunity to give evidence in a smaller, more private room. 

Her counsel Clive Evatt explained: “I’m instructed that she’s of the Muslim religion and it’s against her religion to reveal her face to men, although not to women.

“Therefore, I’m instructed she will not remove her veil, if that’s the correct expression, or whatever it is.”

Mr Balla refused to let Ms Eslzahed give evidence while wearing her niqab, claiming it would impair his judgement. 

He explained: “I must take into account whether I would be impeded in my ability to fully assess the reliability and credibility of the evidence of the first plaintiff if I am not afforded the opportunity of being able to see her face when she gives evidence.

“I am well aware that the demeanour of a witness and the viewing of their face is not the only way in which credibility is assessed. In some cases, the demeanour of a witness may be misleading. 

“However, neither of those considerations can, in my view, mean that I should be completely deprived of having the assistance of seeing her face to assess her credibility.”

New South Wales police also requested Ms Elzahed remove her niqab, claiming facial expressions were a “very important part of giving evidence”. 

The stand-off has plunged Ms Elzahed’s case, a damages claim against police, into confusion. 

Her son gave evidence this week claiming his mother was attacked by police during a raid.

Abdullah George said: “When my mum walked over to me, she sat down and she explained to me that they punched her in the face, and then she explains that while she was trying to cover herself.

“She was holding the blanket above her body because she was – like, she wasn’t really clothed. Once she refused to take the blanket off for the man that came in at the beginning of the raid, he punched her.

“My mum said that they wanted to see her naked, and that she was holding the blanket so that they wouldn’t remove it and she also said that they broke the door, and that she asked why. She says, ‘why did they break the door?’.”