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A judge in Brussels has ruled government decrees ordering mask-wearing in most public areas of the Belgian capital are unconstitutional and violate the principles of "equality and non-discrimination," according to reports.
In what is being called an "extremely remarkable verdict" that sets a landmark legal precedent in Belgium, judge Lionel Van Damme acquitted a man cited and fined by police in August for not wearing a face mask at a public market in Anderlecht.
"The judge ruled that making a mouth mask mandatory everywhere and at all times is disproportionate and contrary to the universal right to freedom of movement," Het Nieuwsblad reports.
"Moreover, the mouth mask obligation is a duty that should be regulated by law and not by ministerial decree, so it is unconstitutional in this case, the judge ruled in his judgment."
Judge Van Damme determined mask laws should be put to the peoples' vote, and even then, the rules must accommodate for varying social situations and crowd densities.
“The mouth mask can be useful to combat the pandemic. But there is a difference between whether you walk alone in the street or with many others," the judge asserted in his ruling.
"To ignore these differences with a general mandatory rule is a violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination.”
The defendant's attorney, Helene Alexandris, called the ruling "far-reaching."
“It is the first judgment that goes so far as to test the mouth mask obligation against the constitution. It is possible that other judges will now also base their decisions on this," she said.
The public prosecutor's office has reportedly appealed Judge Van Damme's ruling.
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