French officials condemn weekend riots over veil ban

The French government has condemned as "unacceptable" weekend violence outside Paris triggered by the country's ban on full-face veils and strongly defended the controversial law.

Two senior members of the government, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Interior Minister Manuel Valls spoke on Monday following the violence in the suburb of Trappes, southwest of Paris.

The unrest erupted after a man was detained for allegedly attacking a police officer who had stopped his wife over her full-face veil a practice that is banned in France, outraging many in the Muslim community.

Prime Minister Ayrault said the subsequent violence was "unacceptable" and called on everyone to respect the law.

Speaking in Grenoble, Ayrault said it is the role of the police and the role of justice to enforce the law. "Laws cannot simply be enforced by waving a magic wand."

Ayrault also called on the right-wing opposition to act "responsibly" and support the government.

Interior Minister Valls earlier said there would be no retreat from the law on veils.

"It is not for a second a law against Islam. It is a law against practices that have nothing to do with our traditions and our values, and the police did their work perfectly well," Valls told RTL radio.

On Friday evening about 400 people protested near the police station in Trappes. They set fire to bins, destroyed bus stops and hurled stones at police who responded with tear gas.

The unrest continued on Saturday night, but to a lesser degree, and by Sunday a tense calm had been restored.

Prosecutors say the husband of the woman who was stopped on Thursday allegedly attacked and tried to strangle the officer.

But in a statement released on Monday, the man's lawyer Wenceslas Ference denied this and said his client "wants it to be known that his wife has always accepted to show her face to police and co-operate during previous ID checks, of which there have been many".

The man, identified as Mickael, was released from custody on Saturday and is due to appear before a court in September.

France has banned women from wearing full-face veils in public since April 2011, violations are punishable by a fine of up to $200 or mandatory citizenship training.