Algerian star jailed in France over forced abortion

Fri Jul 3, 2009 11:39am EDT
 
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BOBIGNY, France (Reuters) - Algerian singer Cheb Mami was sentenced on Friday to five years in a French prison after being found guilty of forcing an attempted abortion on his former lover.

The 42-year-old star of Algeria's popular rai music, whose real name is Mohamed Khelifati, was tried for complicity in kidnapping, group assault on a vulnerable person, threatening a victim and administering harmful substances.

His agent, Michel Le Corre, was sentenced to four years in prison. Two other men, Hicham Lazaar and Abdelkader Lallali, were sentenced to three and six years respectively although neither man was in court and arrest warrants have been issued.

Known globally for "Desert Rose," a duo with pop star Sting in 2000, Mami was arrested on his arrival in France on Monday night, having fled to Algeria two years ago.

He was charged with arranging for his then-partner, a French photographer, to be abducted in August 2005, a few days after she told him she was pregnant.

During the trial, Mami said he had done "wrong" but did not express clear regret and did not speak to his former partner.

The court heard that Le Corre lured the woman to Algiers under the pretext of a business trip. One of the other men then slipped a tranquilizer into her orange juice and drove the semi-conscious woman to Mami's villa.

There, the fourth man and two women, who have not been identified, attempted to perform an abortion on the woman, according to the prosecution. The victim's account of the attempt was confirmed by a medical expert. She also said Mami was present during the abortion attempt, which he denies.

After she returned to France, the victim realized she was still pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl in March 2006.

Mami was held in France for three months in late 2006 and early 2007 as part of the investigation, but skipped bail in 2007 and fled to Algeria. He returned for the trial.

(Reporting by Thierry Leveque; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Louise Ireland)

 
<p>Algerian singer Cheb Mami's lawyer Sophie Bottei (L) is surrounded by journalists prior to the start of the trial in the court at the Paris suburb of Bobigny, July 2, 2009. Algerian singer Cheb Mami was sentenced on Friday to five years in a French prison after being found guilty of forcing an attempted abortion on his former lover.REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer</p>