April 9, 2011 / 5:41 PM / 7 years ago

French police arrest protesters before burqa ban

PARIS (Reuters) - French police arrested 59 people on Saturday who turned up for a banned protest over the banning of the Muslim full face veil, a police spokesman said.

The measure goes into force on Monday and prohibits wearing the full veil, the burqa, in all public places, with a 150 euro ($216) fine for offenders.

The spokesman said 20 of those arrested had turned up for the prohibited protest at the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris wearing the full veil.

One person was arrested on arrival in France from Britain and one came from Belgium.

President Nicolas Sarkozy and his ruling conservative party, the UMP, face presidential and parliamentary elections in the second quarter of 2012 and have angered many moderates by calling for a debate on the place of Islam in France.

Most French people are of Roman Catholic background but France is home to around 5 million Muslims.

Five of those arrested have been detained in custody, one on a count of possessing a weapon, the police spokesman said. All were being questioned.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; writing by Brian Love; editing by Tim Pearce)

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