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France women's group takes legal action to ban 'veiled' candidate from election

[JURIST] The French branch of the Arab Women's Solidarity Association (AWSA) [advocacy website] initiated proceedings [AFP report, in French] Sunday against the participation of a 'veiled' candidate in the upcoming French regional elections, following the dismissal of its initial legal action. The candidate, Ilham Moussaid, represents the New Anticapitalist Party [party website, in French], a radical left-wing party, in the southeast region of France, known as the Paca region. The administrative court of Marseilles rejected a demand to ban Moussaid last week, holding that inasmuch as the authorities had not yet come to a decision there could not be a violation of fundamental freedoms at that stage. The AWSA, along with a taxpayer of the Paca region, have demanded that the administrative court of Marseilles annul that decision on the grounds that it represents a violation of fundamental freedoms, namely the prevalent value of secularity and the freedom of conscience. A hearing was set to take place on Tuesday.

The announcement [France 24 report] of Moussaid's candidacy earlier this month received nationwide media attention, given the recent proposal by a parliamentary commission to ban the burqa [JURIST report]. Since 2004, French law [text, in French] has prohibited the wearing of a headscarf, along with other religious symbols, in schools, a ban that the parliamentary commission proposed to extend to all public institutions. In December 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that there was no human rights violation when a French school expelled two Muslim students for refusing to remove their headscarves.

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