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Sikh sues Poland’s border guards after being ordered to take off turban

A British Sikh is bringing a law suit against Poland’s border guards after he claims they tried to make him remove his turban at the International Frederic Chopin Airport in Warsaw.

Shaminder Puri (pictured) a British citizen of Indian descent, says he was outraged when he asked to take his traditional Sikh turban off at the airport. “Something like that had never happened to me in 40 years at any other airport,” Puri is quoted by the PAP news agency as saying.

Shaminder Puri works as an expert for international NGOs and the EU. He travels to many countries, including Poland, where he studied in 1960s.

Mr. Puri says that he left his laptop, briefcase, jacket, belt, watch, shoes and metal objects at the airport gate and passed through it wearing just his clothes and a turban. The alarm did not sound. Nevertheless, Puri was asked to take off his turban, an outrage to Sikhs.

Puri tried to explain, in Polish, that his religion does not allow him to remove the turban and suggested that a border guard inspects it manually. But the guard insisted on Puri taking off his head cover.

According to safety procedures at airports around the world, if a border guard suspects that a Sikh is smuggling something under his turban, he is asked to touch the turban himself and then a guard inspect him with a special detector.

Puri was punished with a 500 zloty (127 euro) fine because he refused to follow the guard’s order.

Puri asked the Polish ambassador to India and chief of Poland’s Border Guards to investigate the incident but to no avail. Therefore, Puri decided to sue the Border Guards for encroaching on his religious freedom and dignity.

Puri demands an apology and 30,000 zloty (7,600 euro) compensation, which will be donated to children who suffer from leukaemia.

Puri’s complaint is being supported by the Helsinki Foundation.

“I would like the rights of the Sikhs, who more and more often visit Poland or settle down here, to be respected,” said Puri.

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh 
City: Kolkata
Country: India
Date: September 23, 2010