Opposition party Disy is to table a bill which seeks to ban face coverings at demonstrations and large gatherings, claiming that “disruptive elements” infiltrate such events by becoming unrecognisable.
Disy MP Nikos Tornaritis said on Wednesday that making it a criminal offence – punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine of €4,000 – to cover one’s face at a demonstration is needed to protect the right of peaceful assembly.
He further claimed that the bill, if it gets voted through parliament, will harmonise Cyprus’ laws with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which makes the state responsible for ensuring that peaceful demonstrations are not hindered by “disruptive elements”.
“The public must be able to freely demonstrate without fear nor threats that at any moment they could become the victim of a person who has covered their face,” he argued.
The bill sets out to make it a criminal offence if a person attends such gatherings and purposefully alters their appearance to hide their identity.
Tornaritis said that such a law will ensure that “a few people with hoods will no longer be able to cause incidents such as those which disgraced the Republic,” alluding to recent racist attacks in Paphos and Limassol.
The Disy MP further said that the plenary will view the proposal on Thursday, after which it will go to the legal services for review.
Asked whether the proposal would also extend to sports stadiums, Tornaritis said that the sector is already regulated by strict legislation.
As to whether a ban of face veils is on the cards, Tornaritis said that the proposal is not linked to a person’s right to peacefully express their religious beliefs.