Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:59 pm (KSA) 16:59 pm (GMT)

France jails Algeria's "Prince of Rai" for five years

Cheb Mami made the world famous "Desert Rose" with Britsh star Sting (File)
Cheb Mami made the world famous "Desert Rose" with Britsh star Sting (File)

Algerian music star Cheb Mami was sentenced Friday to five years in jail for drugging and 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.

"Serious mistake"

 I was ashamed to have an illegitimate child. A child should be born from a union. I didn't want this child 
Cheb Mami

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" a collaboration with British pop star Sting.

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

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

Drugged and abused

Court sketch shows Cheb Mami at a Paris courthouse

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.

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.

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