veiled muslim
2016A displaced woman who fled Islamic State militants from Mosul speaks with her husband through a fence at Deepaka camp in the northwest of Erbil, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 20, 2016. Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani

Moutia Elzahed, wife of convicted Islamic State recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi, refuses to stand in Australian court because of her religious belief. She is suing the Commonwealth of Australia and NSW Police Force for up to $750,000. The case concerned the conduct of police during a counter-terrorism raid in their home in Revesby in 2014.

Presiding District Court Judge Audrey Balla noticed that Elzahed did not stand when the judge came and left the bench. Balla asked Alqudsi's wife her reasons for not observing court procedures.

“She’s a Muslim, Your Honour, a strict Muslim and according to my instructions, she won’t stand for anyone except Allah, which I’m not particularly happy with, Your Honour,” Clive Evatt, Elzahed's barrister, replied.

Elzahed also refused to remove her veil to testify unless all the men in the courtroom looked away. Evatt said that the Muslim woman can show her face to women but not men. He told Balla that it is something that they needed to live with.

However, Balla refused the idea. Instead, she offered the Muslim woman to give evidence through video link that Elzahed also rejected. In the option given, she would still show her face.

She may face a criminal offence for not complying with the new law passed on Sep. 1.

The Courts Legislation Amendment (Disrespectful Behaviour) Bill 2016 charges a person who engages in a disrespectful behaviour. The disrespectful behaviour may include failing to stand when required to do so and interrupting court proceedings. Failing to bow when entering or leaving the courtroom and not facing the magistrate or judge when directed are also considered as criminal offence.

The law required the offender a maximum penalty of $1,100 or 14 days in prison.

The law was introduced because defendants of many high-profile cases in the past refused to stand in court. Islamic extremist Milad Bin Al Ahmadzai was one of the most notorious people who refused to stand for four District Court judges during multiple criminal cases.

Alqudsi was sentenced to a minimum of six years and maximum eight years in jail for assisting young Australians to travel to Syria. The young men were recruited to fight alongside militant groups such as the Al-Nusra front (Jabaht al-Nusra), IS and Al Qaeda affiliates. He is eligible for release on July 11, 2022.