The first person in NSW to be charged for refusing to stand for a judge on religious grounds has allegedly been intimidated by a man at her hearing.
An Islamic State extremist’s wife, accused of refusing to stand for a judge on religious grounds, has been intimidated by a man in a Sydney court, her lawyer says.
Moutia Elzahed, the wife of jailed terrorist recruiter Hamdi Alqudsi, became the first person in NSW to be charged with the offence after she allegedly remained seated before District Court Judge Audrey Balla nine times in November and December 2016, saying she only stood for Allah.
On Tuesday, she faced Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on disrespectful behaviour charges, but a few hours after proceedings began she and a female companion abruptly left the courtroom before a sheriff’s officer asked a man to leave.
“There were threatening words said,” defence barrister David Hume told magistrate Carolyn Huntsman.
“That’s why they left. There was no disrespect to your honour.”
Elzahed returned to the courtroom shortly after but left an hour before court adjourned that afternoon, saying her 18-year-old son had locked himself out of his house.
After originally casting doubt over whether Elzahed was the niqab-wearing Muslim woman present in court the day her alleged crimes were committed, Mr Hume later admitted it was her.
The 49-year-old allegedly refused to stand while unsuccessfully suing the state and federal governments on claims of police violence during a raid on her Sydney home.
Mr Hume objected several times when a witness identified the alleged offender wearing the black religious attire as Elzahed, claiming it was hearsay.
But he later told the court he’d received instructions not to contest the issue of identification again.
Helen Maamary, a senior solicitor representing the NSW government in the 2016 civil trial, earlier said she believed it was Elzahed but admitted “only her eyes were visible”.
Ms Maamary, who speaks Arabic, said Elzahed had been talking in both Arabic and English during the civil trial and crown prosecutor David Kell suggested the accused understood the court officer’s “all rise” commands.
Stephen Richardson, the man who gave those orders, also noticed Elzahed had remained seated, but said he didn’t hear the judge try to correct her behaviour.
Both witnesses agreed Elzahed’s failure to rise didn’t interrupt proceedings or intimidate anyone.
Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Huntsman rejected the defence’s bid to have the charges quashed on constitutional and jurisdictional grounds.
Elzahed has risen to her feet several times for the magistrate throughout the hearing.