A court postponed a trial in France, which has broken out a row as the reason seems to be that it was to take place during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
It is a breach of France’s srict separation of religion and state, say critics.
Although the trial of seven men for armed robbery was due to start on 16 September in Rennes, last week the court agreed to a request from a lawyer for one of the accused, to put it off until January.
If it were to start now, the trial would fall in the Muslim month of Ramadan, noted the lawyer in the letter in which he asked for the delay.
He said that his client being a Muslim, he would have been fasting for two weeks and thus would be in no position to defend himself properly because he would be physically weakened and too tired to follow the arguments as he should.
Seeing it as a worrying new incursion by religion into the institutions of the French state, campaigning groups and politicians of both left and right have expressed an outraged response to the court’s agreement to postpone the trial.
Fadela Amara, the government’s minister for Urban Affairs, who is a Muslim, said it was a “knife wound” in the principle of a secular republic, before comparing it to another controversial decision : earlier this year a judge agreed to annul a marriage between two Muslims because the wife had lied about her virginity.
According to Jean-Marie le Pen, the far right leader, the French justice system has reached a new low.
Even though the Rennes prosecutor has been forced by the row to issue a denial about Ramadan being the reason for the postponement, it has not convinced lawyers, who note that all the other reasons previously put forward as arguments for a delay had already been declared inadmissible.