France’s highest administrative court has suspended a ban on the burkini in a test case brought by human rights groups, pending a definitive ruling.
The ruling from the state council suspends a single ban in the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, but is likely to set a precedent for other towns that have prohibited the full-body swimwear on their beaches.
Under the French legal system, temporary decisions can be handed down before the court takes more time to prepare a judgment on the underlying legality of the case.
The ban, which spread to more than a dozen coastal towns, had exposed cracks within the Socialist government’s unity as Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended it on Thursday while some ministers criticized it.
The issue has shone a light on secular France’s difficulties responding to homegrown jihadists and foreign militants following Islamist attacks in Nice and a Normandy church in July.
It has also made French cultural identity a hot-button issue along with security in political debates as the country switches into campaign mode ahead of a presidential election next April.