Germany: 'Koran judge' not to be disciplined

The German judge who sparked controversy when she denied a speedy divorce to a battered woman because of her Islamic background will not be disciplined, an investigation has ruled. The Justice Ministry in the German state of Hesse has decided that the Frankfurt judge's ruling did not overstep the acceptable limits of judicial independence.

The case began in October 2006, when a 26-year-old woman filed for immediate divorce from her husband, who had been making death threats to his wife after she left him because of his abusive behavior. German law requires that a couple wait a year between separation and divorce, but the woman's lawyer believed that her circumstances met the "hardship" classification that allows for a speedier ruling.

But in January the judge -- who cannot be named for legal reasons -- denied the woman's request because the couple was of Moroccan origin, citing a Koran verse that some say gives the husband the "right to castigate." The lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, filed a subsequent claim, saying the judge should remove herself from the case due to conflict of interest, which was also rejected. The judge, did, however, put a restraining order on the husband and grant the couple's apartment to the wife.

In a March interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Becker-Rojczyk said she and her client were shocked by the ruling, and had decided to go public. Shortly thereafter, politicians began calling for an investigation, and the Frankfurt court removed the judge from the case. A different judge later granted the disputed early divorce.

Despite strong criticism from the German Judges Association (DRB), Hesse Justice Minister Jürgen Banzer authorized an investigation into the judge's behavior. However the investigation found no reason to discipline the judge because she protected the woman with the restraining order, and her Koran reference was actually in a decision to deny legal aid, and not within an official ruling.

The DRB reacted favourably to the dropped charges of bias against the "Koran Judge," as she came to be known in the German media. "This is completely appropriate," DRB executive director Lothar Jünemann told the German daily Der Tagespiegel Wednesday.

According to Der Tagespiegel, the judge, whose continues her work as usual at the district court, told the paper she regrets the decision but prefers not to speak publicly regarding the case.

Source: Spiegel (English)

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