Top French court makes initial ruling to suspend burkini ban

Beach 'burkini ban' protest at embassy

France's highest administrative court on Friday suspended a ban on full-body burkini swimsuits that has outraged Muslims and opened divisions within the government, pending a definitive ruling.

The Conseil d'Etat gave the ruling following a request from the League of Human Rights to overturn the burkini ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet on the grounds it contravenes civil liberties.

RELATED: Images of burkinis around the world

Images of Burkinis around the world
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Images of Burkinis around the world
Australian muslim swimming instructor Fadila Chafic wears her full-length 'burkini' swimsuit during a swimming lesson with her children Taaleen, right, and Ibrahim at swimming pool in Sydney, August 23, 2016.
A Muslim woman wears a burkini, on a beach in Marseille, France, August 17, 2016.
Model Salwa Elrashid models a 'burkini', designed by Lebanese-born Australian Aheda Zanetti at her fashion store in Sydney, August 23, 2016.
A Muslim model displays burkini swimsuits at a shop in western Sydney on August 19, 2016.

A Moroccan woman wearing a 'burkini', a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women, plays with a child at Oued Charrat beach, near the capital Rabat, on August 17, 2016.

A Tunisian woman wearing a 'burkini', a full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women, walks in the water with a child on August 16, 2016 at Ghar El Melh beach near Bizerte, north-east of the capital Tunis.

Mecca Laa Laa, center, wears a 'Burkini' on her first surf lifesaving patrol at North Cronulla Beach February 4, 2007 in Sydney, Australia.


The court said in a statement the decree to ban burkinis in Villeneuve-Loubet "seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom."

Under the French legal system, temporary decisions can be handed down before the court takes more time to prepare a judgment on the underlying legality of the case.

The ban, which spread to more than a dozen coastal towns, had exposed cracks within the Socialist government's unity as Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended it on Thursday while some ministers criticized it.

The issue has shone a light on secular France's difficulties responding to homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following Islamist attacks in Nice and a Normandy church in July.

It has also made French cultural identity a hot-button issue along with security in political debates as the country switches into campaign mode ahead of a presidential election next April.

(Writing by Leigh Thomas and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Richard Lough)

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