A senior Belgian diplomat and chief of protocol has admitted to removing the niqab of a Qatari princess by force.
Jean-Marie Pire, 60, is employed by the Brussels council to welcome foreign dignitaries to the Belgian capital and heart of the European Union.
He was approached by the wealthy woman and two female companions in central Brussels, asking for directions to the famous Grand Palace when the diplomat removed the woman’s niqab, a black full-face veil.
“I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,” said Pire. “With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium.
“Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!”
The woman, who has not been named, claimed Pire violently ripped her earrings when trying to take off her niqab, causing cuts and bruises to the victim.
As well as its neighbour France, Belgium banned face-coverings in 2012, imposing fines for wearing veils in what is widely known as the “burka ban”.
Local officials have already given the unnamed woman a €125 fine for breaching the ban on face-coverings. She also faces up to seven days in prison for wearing the garment in public.
There is currently no ban on veils in Britain but some Conversative MPs have called for such a law.
‘We will never have a fully functioning, fully integrated multi-cultural society if growing numbers of our citizens go around with their faces covered,’ Conservative MP Philip Hollobone has previously argued.