France's fines on women for wearing the full-face covering niqab veil, imposed for the first time by a court Thursday, are a "travesty of justice," Amnesty International said.

"/> France's fines on women for wearing the full-face covering niqab veil, imposed for the first time by a court Thursday, are a "travesty of justice," Amnesty International said.

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Veil fines a ‘travesty of justice:’ Amnesty

France's fines on women for wearing the full-face covering niqab veil, imposed for the first time by a court Thursday, are a "travesty of justice," Amnesty International said.

Police have issued several on-the-spot fines since the ban came into force in April but the hearing saw the first two court-issued fines, and the Muslim women vowed to appeal their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

“This is a travesty of justice and a day of shame for France. These women are being punished for wearing what they want,” Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia John Dalhuisen said in a statement.

“Instead of protecting women’s rights, this ban violates their freedom of expression and religion.”

The court in the northern cheese-making town of Meaux ordered Hind Ahmas, 32, to pay a €120 ($160) fine, while Najate Nait Ali, 36, was fined €80. It did not order them to take a citizenship course, as the prosecutor had wanted.

The women were arrested when they brought a birthday cake for local mayor and lawmaker Jean-Francois Cope, who is head of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party that pushed through Europe’s first anti-burqa law.

France is not the only country to try to ban the Muslim full-face veil – Belgium and some Italian cities have similar laws, while other countries are planning to follow suit — so a European ruling could have broad effect.

French officials estimate that only around 2,000 women, from a total Muslim population estimated at between four and six million, wear the full-face veils traditionally worn in parts of the Arab world and South Asia.

Many Muslims and rights activists say the right-wing president is targeting one of France’s most vulnerable groups to signal to anti-immigration voters that he shares their fear that Islam is a threat to French culture.

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Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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