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Swedish court bans niqab-wearing women

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Swedish court bans niqab-wearing women
A picture of two of the women taken at a previous remand hearing
16:30 CEST+02:00
Three women wearing head scarves completely shielding their faces were denied entry to a Gothenburg courtroom on Friday during the remand hearing of one of the suspects in the Röda Sten murder plot case.

”I am responsible for order in this court room and I feel I can't achieve that if I am unable to see the faces of the people present,” said district court judge Stefan Wikmark to Swedish TV4.

The three women were stopped as they were trying to enter the courtroom for the remand hearing 26-year-old Abdi Aziz Mahamud who is under suspicion for plotting the murder of Swedish artist Lars Vilks at an art exhibition in Gothenburg in September.

All three women were wearing niqabs covering them from head to toe.

One of the guards at the Gothenburg District Court prevented them from stepping into the court room, referring to the ban on face coverings, according to TV4's affiliate in Gothenburg.

The decision to refuse the women from entering the court room while wearing their traditional garb was taken by Wikmark during the remand negotiations.

Aziz Mahamud, as well as Salar Sami Mahamood, 23, and 25-year-old Abdi Weli Mohamud have been held since a raid carried out in September by officers from Swedish security service Säpo.

After receiving intelligence indicating that a terrorist attck would be carried out during an exhibition at Röda Sten, officers stormed and evacuated the gallery during the opening of an art exhibition.

Four men were arrested on the suspicion of preparing terrrorist activities following the raid.

However, one of the suspects, 24-year-old Mohamed Adel Kulan, was later released due to lack of evidence and the suspicions against the other men were subsequently downgraded from preparing terror crimes to preparing to commit murder.

Controversial artist Vilks has been under threat since his drawings of the prophet Muhammad, published in a Swedish newspaper, caused a wave of condemnation from Muslims worldwide.

At Friday's hearing the court ruled that Aziz Mahamud should remain in custody, pending trial.

In separate hearings, court also ruled that the other two suspects should remain in remand and instructed prosecutors to file formal charges against the men by November 9th.

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