Last updated: 25 October, 2012

Tunisia veil row trial postponed

The trial of a Tunisian academic accused of slapping a female student wearing an Islamic veil was postponed on Thursday over procedural issues, a defence lawyer said.

Habib Kazdaghli, whose trial has gripped Tunisia for months amid bristling tensions between secularists and hardline Salafists, has been postponed to November 15, lawyer Mokhtar Trifi said.

Kazdaghli, dean of the faculty of arts, letters and humanities at Manouba University, is accused of slapping a student who refused to remove the full-face veil known as the niqab.

The postponement resulted from a request by both the plaintiff and claimant for the court to allow the student — who has not been named — to lodge a civil claim as part of the criminal case, said Trifi.

Such a move would give the side that wins the case the right to seek financial compensation.

Kazdaghli, who has been charged with violence committed by an official while carrying out his duties, faces five years in jail if convicted.

“I hope the case can be wrapped up as soon as possible because it is draining the energy of academics who should be dealing with more important things,” Kazdaghli said as he emerged from court surrounded by supporters.

He has accused the claimant and another female student of ransacking his office when the slap allegedly occurred.

Manouba University, a left-wing bastion home to some 13,000 students, has been rocked by protests and weeks-long sit-ins after banning women from wearing the niqab over security concerns.

Six students have been disciplined for wearing the niqab since the tug-of-war first erupted in November last year.