The furore over whether a Muslim witness should be forced to remove her burqa to give evidence in a fraud trial took a violent twist yesterday when the accused man was allegedly ambushed and attacked in his car as he made his way to court.
Anwar Sayed, the former principal of now-defunct Muslim Ladies College in Perth, suffered lacerations and bruises in the attack, which happened just before 9am as he drove from his Canning Vale home to his solicitor’s office in Leeming.
Mr Sayed, who is accused of obtaining up to $752,000 from the State and Federal governments by inflating enrolment numbers at the Kenwick college, was due to appear in the District Court for a trial date to be set.
Instead, the 51-year-old was being treated for his injuries at Fremantle Hospital and detectives began investigating the alleged assault, which happened the day after Mr Sayed’s lawyer told the court his client had received numerous death threats.
Mr Sayed’s solicitor Swaran Ludher said that his client arrived at his property in a “very distressed and agitated state”.
“He was in pain, frightened and not very lucid,” he said. “I could not make sense of what he was saying but I saw the bruises on him. He had been attacked on his chest and head.”
Paramedics took Mr Sayed to Fremantle Hospital. A hospital spokeswoman said Mr Sayed had been transferred to another hospital late yesterday.
Det Sgt James Bradley said although Mr Sayed’s injuries were minor, they were treating it as a serious incident.
“From initial inquiries, it appears that a vehicle has stopped the driver in his car and he has been assaulted through his window as he was seated in his car,” he said. “We currently have forensic police examining the car and hopefully from that we will be able to gather fingerprints or DNA evidence.”
Mr Ludher said many people in the Muslim and wider community were upset with Mr Sayed following the raging debate surrounding his case this week. “He has been threatened by people because of the burqa issue,” he said. Mr Sayed’s case made headlines after a judge heard submissions to decide whether a female witness will have to remove her niqab – a veil which covers the face to just allow the eyes to be seen – when she testifies.
Tasneem, the female witness in question who did not want to reveal her surname, said she was shocked but did not want to comment further.
Mr Sayed’s legal team appeared in court an hour after the alleged attack. Defence lawyer Mark Trowell told Judge Peter Martino, that Mr Sayed had been “brutally stabbed in the face and chest”.
Mr Sayed’s daughter Safiyyah said yesterday that the family were traumatised. She asked police to step up their efforts to protect her father.
A police spokeswoman said they had no evidence of death threats being reported to them.