The third hearing will proceed tomorrow in the trial of the Manouba University dean accused of assaulting a veiled student last March, extending an affair that has balooned into a showdown between secular society and the more visible Islamist element in Tunisia.
Dean Habib Kazdaghli denies the accusations against him, saying that the girl, protesting secular campus policies, stormed in and ransacked his office.
“I hope that this file be close, because I know I did not hit anyone,” said Kazdaghli, adding that he believes the current Islamist government is influencing the trial. “I’m scared the justice will be instrumentalized.”
Student demonstrations and occasional clashes have erupted in protest of the school’s secular policies that prohibit the niqab—a veil revealing only the eyes—on campus.
But administrators and faculty say the ban is necessary for professors to teach, and they see the demonstrations, and the ongoing trial, as attempts to impinge on an open academic environment.
“It’s the law of our univeristy. Professors must be able to see the students’ face,” Kazdaghli said.
Manouba faculty members are planning a sit-in in front of the courts tomorrow.