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Hamas courts tell women lawyers to cover their hair

GAZA (Reuters) - The Hamas-appointed chief justice in the Gaza Strip has ordered female lawyers to wear a head scarf in court, drawing criticism from human rights groups in the territory controlled by the Islamist group.

Hamdi Shaqoura of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said on Monday Chief Justice Abdel-Raouf al-Halabi’s edict “violated personal freedoms” and that it raised fears that Hamas intended to impose Islamic religious law.

Hamas, which wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in fighting in 2007, has denied such allegations.

Halabi ordered all attorneys to appear in Gaza courts in dark clothing and women to wear a scarf covering their hair.

Several human rights groups in the territory issued statements calling the edict, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, a violation of public and personal freedoms.

The Palestinian Lawyers Syndicate, representing attorneys in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, demanded the decision be reversed.