Fresh attempt launched to introduce anti-burqa law in Belgium

Brussels, Belgium - A committee in Belgium's lower chamber of parliament approved Wednesday a law outlawing burqas and other kinds of Islamic face veils - relaunching efforts to introduce the ban nearly one year after they were thwarted by a government crisis.

The law seeks to punish anyone caught in public places with their face completely or partly covered - thus preventing their identification - with fines between 15 to 20 euros (21 to 35 dollars) and/or up to seven days' imprisonment.

The draft law still needs to be approved by the full Chamber of Deputies and by the Senate, Belgium's upper house.

A similar bill won backing from the Chamber last April, but was still waiting to be approved by the Senate when a linguistic squabble between Belgium's French- and Dutch-speaking politicians led to parliament being dissolved, triggering early elections.

The bill was reintroduced by the centre-right French-speaking Mouvement Reformateur (MR), which stressed the need for a national law outlawing burqas after judges in January scrapped a local ban imposed in Etterbek, a district of Brussels, the Belga news agency said.

Like last year, all other parties backed the proposal except for the French- and Dutch-speaking Green parties, which renewed calls for Belgium's top administrative court to review the constitutionality of such a ban before it is introduced.