Australian court convicts Muslim woman for failing to stand

SYDNEY — The wife of an Islamic State group recruiter gave the militants' single-finger salute outside a Sydney court on Friday after becoming the first person convicted under a new state law criminalizing the refusal to stand for a judge.

Moutia Elzahed, 50, defiantly remained seated with her arms folded in the Downing Centre Local Court dressed in a black niqab, gown and gloves after magistrate Carolyn Huntsman delivered the landmark decision.

She was found guilty of nine charges of disrespectful behavior during previous court hearings she was involved in. She will be sentenced on June 15.

New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, introduced the law in 2016 after several Muslim defendants refused to stand for judges on religious grounds.

The magistrate found Elzahed had repeatedly and intentionally flouted the established court convention in 2016 when she failed to rise for District Court Judge Audrey Balla. Elzahed said she only stood for Allah, but Huntsman found no evidence she had acted on a genuine religious belief.

"No evidence was presented that the teachings of Islam compel this conduct," the magistrate said.

In 2016, Elzahed had been trying to sue the state and federal governments on claims of police violence and wrongful imprisonment over a raid on her Sydney home two years earlier. She was ultimately unsuccessful.

Closed circuit TV showed Elzahed failed to rise in court nine times, with each offense carrying a maximum jail term of 14 days and a 1,100 Australian dollar ($828) fine.

Defense lawyers had initially cast doubt over whether Elzahed was the woman under the black robes who refused to stand. But they later said her identity would not be contested.

Elzahed is married to Sydney resident Hamdi Alqudsi, who was sentenced in 2016 to eight years in prison for helping young Australians reach Syria to fight for extremists.

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