A woman whose arrest for wearing a full Islamic veil sparked riots in a Paris suburb on Wednesday challenged the legality of France's controversial ban on face coverings, claiming the law discriminated against Muslims.

At the start of a key trial which has thrown the spotlight on the country's attempts to protect its secular traditions, Cassandra Belin's lawyer told a Versailles court that the ban, which came into force in 2011, ran contrary to principles of religious freedom and was an offence to human dignity.

The 20-year-old Muslim convert refused to attend the hearing, her lawyer claiming she did not want to be perceived as a "symbol of rampant Islamisation".

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