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8 Jul, 2016 04:23

‘Burqa ban’ comes into force: Swiss region imposes first fines

 ‘Burqa ban’ comes into force: Swiss region imposes first fines

The Swiss canton of Ticino has issued its first two fines to two people who violated the region’s newly-imposed law that bans Muslim women, both locals and tourists, from wearing burqas in public places.

It has been one week since the ban came into force on July 1, nearly three years after 65 percent of the region’s voters supported the law in a referendum in 2013 and six months after the cantonal parliament passed the law.

Local authorities saw their first “violators” on the same day as the ban was enforced. Nora Illi, a member of the Islamic Central Council Switzerland, and a French-Algerian businessman Rachid Nekkaz stood accused of deliberately breaching the law, Swiss Info reported.

Nora Illi was caught wearing a full-length Burqa in Ticino’s city of Locarno. She was accompanied by an avid opponent of burqa bans Nekkaz. 

Both were ordered to pay fines. Nekkaz who was accused of incitement to breach the legislation was immediately fined 200 Swiss francs or US$205 while Illi’s penalty is yet to be decided. A fine can range from 100 francs ($98) to 10,000 francs ($10,200).

As the law came into force on Friday, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Bern posted a warning for their citizens planning to visit Switzerland.

"The embassy wishes to emphasize that the Ticino cantonal authorities in south eastern Switzerland have announced that as of July 1, 2016 they will start to enforce the burka (niqab) ban in public places in the canton, including in Lugano, Locarno, Magadino, Bellinzona, Ascona and Mendrisio, " the embassy wrote on Twitter.

It urged the citizens “to respect and conform to Swiss rules and regulations in order avoid all problems.”

Earlier in July, an Austrian town banned the so-called “burqini”, a modest piece of swimwear used by some Muslim women, at a public pool.

Prior to that, in June, a similar ban was introduced by the public pool in the German city of Neutraubling, following complaints by a fellow woman visitor. The woman opted for a full-body swimsuit during a women-only day in the pool.

In May, the Dutch government backed a partial ban on wearing an Islamic face-covering veil in schools, hospitals and on public transport, with fines amounting to £300 ($388). Belgium and France outlawed full-face veil in 2011.

Bulgaria is the latest country to have approved a bill prohibiting the wearing of clothing that fully or partially covers faces in public places.