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France

French court convicts Islamic veil-wearing woman

media Police inTrappes after July's riots AFP/Fred Dufour

A French court has kicked out a challenge to France's burka law and given a young woman a suspended prison sentence for a dispute with police officers who arrested her for wearing the face-covering niqab.

A court in Versailles, near Paris, on Wednesday condemned 20-year-old Cassandra Belin a one-month suspended jail term for insulting and threatening police officers and a 150-euro fine for "wearing clothing that hides the face".

It also threw out a challenge to the law on the grounds that it breaches the constitutional provision of equality for all, declaring that the Constitutional Council has already declared it legitimate.

Riots broke out in Trappes, a town near Paris, in July after Belin, a Muslim convert, and her husband, Michaël Khiri, confronted police officers who had stopped her because she was wearing niqab.

Belin did not attend Wednesday's hearing, a fact that was "deplored" by magistrate Florence Perret, who said that she would have been prepared to discuss a sentence of community service if the accused had been present.

The sentences were stiffer than the 500-euro fine for insluting a police officer and 150-euro fine for wearing niqab proposed by the public prosecutor at Belin's tril on 11 December.

Belin's lawyer, Philippe Bataille, described the sentence as "not particularly severe" and said he would take some time to consider whether to appeal.

But he added that he intended to continue fighting the burka ban, judging it discriminatory against Muslims and hostile to freedom.

Khiri, also a Muslim convert, was given a three-month suspended sentence in November for fighting police officers during the confrontation with his wife.

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