PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the ruling by France's top administrative court on burkini bans (all times local):
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the court ruling suspending a ban on burkinis in a Mediterranean beach town doesn't put an end to what he says is a fundamental debate.
Valls wrote on his Facebook page that denouncing the burkini "in no way puts into question individual freedom" and is really about denouncing "fatal, retrograde Islamism."
Valls wrote: "The burkini is not a religious sign, it is the affirmation of political Islam in the public space."
The decision suspending the burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet opens the way for easy legal challenges in nearly 30 other towns with such bans if mayors refuse to lift the orders.
The Socialist prime minister had come out in favor of the bans and said in his commentary that "to remain silent ... is a small renouncement."
Some female government ministers had publicly disagreed with his position.
A lawyer for Human Rights League says the group plans to ask all French mayors who banned burkinis to withdraw their orders after a top court ruled against one such decree.
The lawyer, Patrice Spinosi, says that if the mayors refuse to do so after Friday's ruling by the Council of State, he will systematically take each case to court.
With the decision to suspend the ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, courts are required to follow the Council of State ruling.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says the decision by a top court in France to overrule a town's burkini ban was a welcome development.
Dujarric said Friday: "We welcome the decision by the court. I think our opinion was expressed fairly clearly the other day on the need for people's personal dignity and person to be respected."
He had also commented on the issue earlier in the week, after photos emerged that appeared to show police officers in Nice instructing a woman on a beach to remove her tunic.
He then said "it's about respecting the dignity of people; it's about respecting the dignity of women. And as I said from what we've seen in the photos, it doesn't look like that was the case in this particular incident."
The White House is stepping gingerly into the burkini debate.
Asked about a French town's ban on the beachwear, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was reluctant to "second-guess" an ally's internal debate about security.
Still, Earnest noted the U.S. was founded as a country where people "could observe their religious faith, and worship God without the fear of persecution or even intrusion by government authorities."
He said President Barack Obama "believes strongly in the freedom of religion" and believes protecting that freedom strengthens national security.
The French town's ban on the burkini was overturned by the country's Council of State on Friday, which said it infringed on basic freedoms.
The mayor of the French town whose burkini ban was suspended by the Council of State, says the ruling will "heighten passions and tensions."
Conservative Villeneuve-Loubet Mayor Lionnel Luca told reporters that "rampant Islamization is progressing in our country" and with the ruling to suspend his town's ban on burkinis at public beaches "they've gained a small additional step."
"Far from calming, this decision can only heighten passions and tensions, with the risk of trouble we wanted to avoid," he said.
Luca, also a lawmaker, said that now only a law can now stop troubles since mayors cannot do so. He suggested he would take action when Parliament returns from its summer leave — but did not say what kind of law he would seek.
Former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced this week he's seeking the conservative nomination for the presidential race, said Thursday that he wants a law banning the burkini "on the entire territory of the Republic."
National Front leader Marine Le Pen says the overturning of a ban on burkinis in a French Mediterranean town is "not surprising" but the battle is not over.
The right-wing leader said that lawmakers must vote "as quickly as possible" on an extension of the 2004 law that banned Muslim headscarves and other ostentatious religious symbols in classrooms to include all public spaces.
Le Pen, who is running for president in the 2017 race, wrote in a statement that: "The burkini would obviously be part of it."
Former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced this week he's seeking the conservative nomination for the race, said at a rally Thursday night in southern France that he wants a law banning the burkini "on the entire territory of the Republic."
Amnesty International is praising a French court decision against bans of burkini swimsuits, calling such decrees invasive and discriminatory.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe Director, said in a statement Friday: "By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance, today's decision has drawn an important line in the sand."
Several French towns banned the burkini for reasons including security and fears of public disorder. France's Council of State ruled Friday that a burkini ban in one Riviera town is not justified and violates several fundamental rights.
Many human rights groups denounced the bans, which caused shock outside French borders.
"Invasive and discriminatory measures such as these restrict women's choices and are an assault on their freedoms," Dalhuisen said. "The enforcement of these bans leads to abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls."
A human rights lawyer says the decision by France's top administrative court to overturn a ban on burkini swimsuits should set a legal precedent for the whole country.
Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League, told reporters that other mayors who have banned burkinis must conform to Friday's decision regarding the town of Villeneuve-Loubet. He also said women who have already received fines can protest them based on Friday's decision.
"It is a decision that is meant to set legal precedent," he said. "Today all the ordinances taken should conform to the decision of the Council of State. Logically the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. If not legal actions could be taken" against those towns.
"Today the state of law is that these ordinances are not justified. They violate fundamental liberties and they should be withdrawn."
Human Rights League was among the groups that brought the lawsuit against the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, saying the orders infringe basic freedoms.
The mayor of Sisco in northern Corsica says he won't lift his ban on the burkini despite a ruling by France's top administrative court regarding a similar ban in another town.
Ange-Pierre Vivoni had banned the burkini after an Aug. 13 clash on a beach in Sisco.
He told BFM-TV Friday: "Here the tension is very, very, very strong and I won't withdraw it."
He conceded he doesn't know whether a woman was actually wearing a burkini the day a clash occurred that set a group of sunbathers of North African origin, from another town, against villagers from Sisco.
It took days to untangle the events leading to the violence that many immediately assumed was over a burkini siting.
France's top administrative court has overturned a town burkini ban amid shock and anger worldwide after some Muslim women were ordered to remove body-concealing garments on French Riviera beaches.
The ruling by the Council of State Friday specifically concerns a ban in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the binding decision is expected to set a legal precedent for all the 30 or so French resort municipalities that have issued similar decrees.
Lawyers for two human rights groups challenged the legality of the ban to the top court, saying the orders infringe basic freedoms and that mayors have overstepped their powers by telling women what to wear on beaches.
Mayors had cited concern about public order after deadly Islamic extremist attacks this summer, and many officials have argued that burkinis oppress women.
Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League, told reporters that the decision should set a precedent, and that other mayors should conform to it. He also said women who have already received fines can protest them based on Friday's decision.
France's highest administrative court is considering whether it's legal for towns to ban body-covering burkini swimsuits, which have become a symbol of tensions around the place of Islam in secular France.
After human rights groups challenged a local burkini ban, the Council of State is scheduled to issue a ruling Friday afternoon.
At a hearing Thursday, lawyers for the rights groups argued that the bans are feeding fear and infringe on basic freedom. Mayors who have banned burkinis cite concern about public order after deadly Islamic extremist attacks this summer, and many officials argue that burkinis oppress women.
The bans have divided France's government and society and drawn anger abroad, especially after images circulated online showing police appearing to force a Muslim woman to take off her tunic.
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