French court to rule on burkini ban on Friday

Protesters demonstrate against France's ban of the burkini, outside the French Embassy in London, Britain August 25, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s highest administrative court will rule on Friday whether to uphold or suspend a ban on burkinis that has spread to more than a dozen coastal towns, pending a definitive decision, a judge said.

The court, the Conseil d’Etat, considered on Thursday a human rights group’s request to overturn the burkini ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet.

But Friday’s decision, at 3 p.m. local time (1300 GMT), will not be about the legality of the ban.

Under the French system, the judge will merely decide whether there is ground to act urgently by temporarily suspending the ban until a judgment on its legality can be made.

The court will therefore consider two things: whether the town’s decree banning the burkini is a flagrant violation of civil liberties, and if the harm caused is serious enough to immediately suspend it.

A decision on the substance is likely to take at least several more months or longer.

The procedure was developed to avoid situations whereby serious violations of civil liberties by public authorities would remain in place for months or even years because of clogged-up courts.

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Reporting by Simon Carraud and Michel Rose; Editing by Leigh Thomas