Algerian singer Cheb Mami jailed over abortion bid

By AFP

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 3, 2009 at 11:11 AM EDT

Algerian-born music star Cheb Mami was sentenced on Friday to five years in jail for trying to make his ex-girlfriend undergo a forced abortion, despite pleading for forgiveness at his trial near Paris.

Known as the "Prince of Rai", the 42-year-old singer this week ended two years on the run and returned to France to face trial for the 2005 assault against his former lover.

Wearing a white shirt, the star, whose real name is Mohamed Khelifati, showed no emotion as the verdict was read out, before being escorted from the courtroom in Bobigny, outside Paris, and remanded in custody.

Prosecutors had asked for seven years against Mami, who produced several chart-topping records in France in the 1990s but reached international stardom in 2001 with the hit "Desert Rose" sung with British pop star Sting.

Mami's former manager Michel Lecorre -- also known as Michel Levy -- was sentenced to four years for plotting and organising the assault.

Arrest warrants were also issued for two of Mami's aides, Hicham Lazaar and Abdelkader Lallali, who were convicted in absentia of having a direct hand in the violence. They were sentenced to three and six years in jail respectively.

The victim, a 43-year-old photographer whose name was withheld, was sequestered and drugged in an Algiers house belonging the singer after revealing she was pregnant in the summer of 2005.

Two women and a man then tried to carry out an abortion on her.

Returning to France, the woman learned that her pregnancy had not been terminated and went on to have the child -- a girl -- now three years old.

"They insulted me.. They threw me on the mattress and tore off my pants....I was given three shots with needles, one woman pressed against my stomach and the other put her hand in my vagina and started scraping," she testified in court.

During his testimony, Mami expressed remorse and pleaded for the woman's forgiveness.

He broke down in tears and admitted making a "serious mistake" but said he did not love the woman and felt "trapped" when she told him she was pregnant.

"I was ashamed to have an illegitimate child. A child should be born from a union. I didn't want this child," he told the court.

Mami blamed his former manager Levy, saying he was behind the plot to force the woman to have an abortion.

"I was in a panic and I agreed," he said. "I did nothing to stop him."




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