European Court of Human Rights upholds French law banning veil

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European Court of Human Rights upholds French law banning veil
France's would-be presidential candidate Kenza Drider, right, flanked by Hind Ahmas, left, who was attending court to defend her wearing of a face-covering veil, presents her platform at an improvised press conference in front of a Paris courthouse in Paris, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. Drider rattled off 30 mostly left-leaning proposals that included capping salaries and devaluing the euro as well as her cause celebre, repealing the ban on wearing face-concealing niqabs in public. ( AP Photo/Francois Mori)
France's would-be presidential candidate Kenza Drider, who wears a face-covering veil presents her manifesto at an improvised press conference in front of a Paris courthouse with her lawyer Gilles Devers, at right, in Paris, Monday, Dec. 12, 2011. Drider rattled off 30 mostly left-leaning proposals that included capping salaries and devaluing the euro as well as her cause celebre, repealing the ban on wearing face-concealing niqabs in public. ( AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Kenza Drider, wearing an Islamic face veil announces in front of Meaux court house, east of Paris that she will be candidate for the 2012 French presidential elections Thursday Sept. 22, 2011. Drider declared her longshot candidacy Thursday, the same day that a French court fined two women who refuse to remove their veils. All three are among a group of women mounting an attack on the law that has banned the garments from the streets of France since April, and prompted similar moves in other European countries. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Kenza Drider, wearing an Islamic face veil announces in front of Meaux court house, east of Paris that she will be candidate for the 2012 French presidential elections Thursday Sept. 22, 2011. Drider declared her longshot candidacy Thursday, the same day that a French court fined two women who refuse to remove their veils. All three are among a group of women mounting an attack on the law that has banned the garments from the streets of France since April, and prompted similar moves in other European countries. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Women supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami rally to condemn the ban imposed on the burqa or veil in France, Thursday, April 14, 2011 in Lahore, Pakistan. (AP Photo/K.M.Chaudary)
France's Kenza Drider , wearing a niqab, drives a car in Avignon, southern France, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. A ban on the burqa-style veil, to be voted on Tuesday in the Senate, would affect only a tiny minority of Muslim women _ estimated at less than 2,000 _ making it far less controversial than France's 2004 ban on Muslim headscarves in classrooms, which proliferated in heavily immigrant neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
France's Kenza Drider wears a niqab , as she reads a magazine in a shop, in Avignon, southern France, Monday, Sept. 13, 2010. A ban on the burqa-style veil, to be voted on Tuesday in the Senate, would affect only a tiny minority of Muslim women _ estimated at less than 2,000 _ making it far less controversial than France's 2004 ban on Muslim headscarves in classrooms, which proliferated in heavily immigrant neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
Kenza Drider, candidate for the 2012 French presidential election, speaks to the press on December 12, 2011 in front of the police tribunal in Paris, after being fined for violating France's niqab ban. In France, a woman who repeatedly insists on appearing veiled in public can be fined 150 euros and ordered to attend re-education classes. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday upheld France's 2010 ban on full-face veils in public, dismissing a case brought by a French woman against the state for breach of religious freedom.

France has both the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at 5 million, and some of the continent's most restrictive laws about expressions of faith in public.

It was the first European country to pass a law banning burqa and niqab garments that conceal the face in public. Belgium later followed suit.

Judges at Europe's human rights court said the law did not exceed the margin of interpretation by states in implementing the European Convention on Human Rights.

Its decision is definitive.

Authorities passed the law under former President Nicolas Sarkozy's administration, casting the full-faced veil as an affront to the country's tenets of secularism as well as being degrading to women.

It is also a security risk, preventing the accurate identification of individuals, officials have said.

Anyone wearing the full-face veil in public is liable to a fine of 150 euros ($216) or lessons in French citizenship.

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