Australia gives powers to police to demand removal of burqas

Melbourne: Even as its neighbour New Zealand is counselling for cultural tolerance, police in the Australian state of New South Wales have been handed over-riding powers to demand removal of burqas or any other form of face veil if they suspect people of committing crimes.

The state cabinet approved a new legislation to bolster police powers during routine car stops after a recent case of muslim woman who was acquitted when a judge ruled that she could not be positively identified because she was wearing a burqa.

The new law comes into force after the state premier Barry O` Farrel reacted strongly to the acquittal saying, "I don`t care whether a person is wearing a helmet, a burqa, a naqab, face veil or anything else, the police should be allowed to require those people to make their identification clear."

Though the New South Wales government is refusing to give details on the new laws, ABC reported that it provides that anyone who refuses show their face to police could be jailed upto a year or fined Australian dollars 5,500.

The new law follows a recent high-profile case of Carnita Matthew who was sentenced to six months jail in November 2010 for falsely accusing police of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was stopped for a traffic offence.

Her sentence was quashed last month by a judge who observed that she had not been positively identified because the officers could not see her face.