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French court sentences youth in veil riot case


A 19-year-old youth was sentenced to six months in prison on Monday in connection with the weekend's violent clashes in a Parisian suburb, sparked after police stopped a woman wearing a full Islamic veil. Two other defendants were acquitted.


A French court on Monday sentenced a 19-year-old youth to six months in prison in connection with the weekend’s violent clashes in a Parisian suburb, which were sparked after police stopped a woman who was wearing a full Islamic veil.

The teenager was charged with committing acts of violence and throwing projectiles at the police during the riot in Trappes on Friday night. Two other defendants were acquitted. 

The sentencing by a criminal court in Versailles came hours after French Interior Minister Manuel Valls defended the country’s ban on wearing full-face veils in public.

"Police did their job perfectly," said Valls in an interview with French radio station, RTL, on Monday. "The law banning full-face veils is a law in the interests of women and against those values having nothing to do with our traditions and values. It must be enforced everywhere."

As tensions simmered in the southwest Paris suburb, Valls announced that reinforced police deployments would remain in place “as long as necessary until a lasting calm is restored” in Trappes.

On Friday night, at least 250 people in Trappes besieged the town’s police station, with video showing rioters hurling fireworks at police officers while a number of bins were set ablaze.

Four police officers were injured and six people detained during the violence. A 14-year-old boy suffered a serious eye injury from a projectile, police said.

The clashes were sparked by the arrest on Thursday of a man accused of assaulting a police officer after his wife was stopped for wearing a full-face veil – illegal in public places under French law.

Prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told reporters that the man had attempted to strangle the police officer during the altercation. Local Muslim groups deny this, and insist he was provoked.

Valls said he did not doubt "for an instant" that the police officers acted with respect towards the woman when conducting their check.

Despite a heavily reinforced police presence, approximately 50 people were involved in fresh clashes with riot police on Saturday. Around 20 cars were torched and four people arrested.

Meanwhile, police union chief David Callu told French TV station BFMTV that violence had spread to the neighbouring towns of Élancourt and Guyancourt over the weekend.

Veil ban

Since April 2011, France has had a ban against full facial veils, outraging many in its Muslim community.

Violations are punishable by a fine of up to 150 euros or mandatory citizenship training.

About 300 women were caught breaking the veil law in the first year it was in force, authorities have said.

A similar outbreak of unrest occurred last month when authorities stopped a 25-year-old woman in Argenteuil, a suburb north-west of Paris, for wearing a full-face veil, or niqab.

An angry crowd gathered and police later fired tear gas and rubber bullets in order to disperse them.

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