The screening of a documentary film in Locarno about a Saudi poetess criticising patriarchal Arab society became embroiled in polemics when the woman featured in the film, The Poetess, covered her face with a veil on stage after the showing.

Hissa Hilal walked onto the stage without any facial covering but eventually donned the niqab to avoid being photographed.

The gesture prompted heckling from one of the main promoters of the 'burka' ban in force in this part of Switzerland.

"The lady may not know that in Ticino it's forbidden to hide your face in public," said Giorgio Ghirighelli, who was sitting in the audience. His comment was met with derision from other members of the public.

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