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Rai singer Cheb Mami arrested at a Paris airport


Latest update : 2009-06-30

Franco-Algerian rai star Cheb Mami was arrested on Monday at a Paris airport, after arriving from Algeria. The singer is due in court on Thursday, where he is accused of forcing an ex-companion to attempt an abortion.

AFP - Rai star Cheb Mami was arrested at a Paris airport Monday after arriving from Algeria days before his trial on charges of forcing an ex-companion to attempt an abortion, judicial officials said.

Mami, whose real name is Mohammed Khalifati, is to be heard during his trial on Thursday and risks 10 years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros if found guilty.

His former manager Maurice Levy, who is also under investigation, as well as two aides, Hicham Lazaar and Abdelkader Lallali, will also be questioned.

Mami was detained by border police at Orly airport, south of the French capital, shortly after 7:00 pm (1700 GMT).

Judicial officials said the prosecution would ask for him to be remanded in custody until the trial Thursday.

Interpol in January formally asked Algeria to hand over the 42-year-old singer.

A request was sent via the national police directorate to the justice ministry, which relayed it to prosecutors in Mami's hometown of Saida, in the southwest of the country, the Arabic-language An-Nahar newspaper said at the time.

His arrest marked the latest twist in an ongoing legal saga surrounding the internationally famous "prince of rai".

France issued an international warrant for his arrest in May last year after the singer skipped bail and failed to heed an order to appear in court.

He had been put under formal investigation in France on suspicion of "voluntary violence", sequestration and making threats against the ex-companion, a photojournalist specialising in rai.

It is alleged that, in mid-2005, the woman was sequestered in a house in Algiers belonging to a friend of the singer where two doctors were said to have attempted to carry out an abortion on her.

Returning to France, the woman -- whose identity has been withheld -- learned that her foetus was still alive. She went on to have the child, who today is three years old.

The singer -- who has worked with the likes of Police frontman Sting and hit-spinning producer Nile Rodgers -- denies the charge, saying he is the target of a European media witch hunt due to his success as an "Arab star".

Speaking to Algerian and French news outlets in June last year, Cheb Mami said he preferred to be tried in Algeria, having lost what he called "confidence in French justice".

"Today I am in my country," he told the Algerian newspaper Quotidien d'Oran. "I trust the judicial system in my country and I am fully at its disposition if it decides to judge me."

Date created : 2009-06-29