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French court temporarily overturns burkini swimsuit ban

A French court has suspended a ban on full-body burkini swimsuits to give it more time to make a definitive ruling.

The outlawing of the swimwear in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet - on the grounds the burkini contravenes civil liberties - spread to a dozen coastal towns in the south east and north of the country, including Nice and Le Touquet.

The mass banning outraged Muslims and anti-Islamophobia groups and opened divisions within the government, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls' defence of the decree criticized by some of his ministers. The Conseil d'Etat, the nation's highest administrative court, delivered the temporary ruling to reverse the ban following a request from the League of Human Rights.

The court said the burkini ban 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 to give the court more time to prepare a permanent judgment.

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was the most recent high profile figure to enter the burkini debate, branding the swimsuits a “provocation” that supports radicalised Islam, as he began his bid to regain office next year.

French cultural identity is expected to be a key issue, along with security following repeat terror attacks, in political debates towards the presidential election next April.

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