Page last updated at 14:58 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 15:58 UK

Rai star jailed for abortion bid

Cheb Mami (file image)
Cheb Mami says he is persecuted because he is a successful Arab

A French court has jailed the Algerian singer Cheb Mami for five years for abducting a former partner and forcing her to undergo an attempted abortion.

Cheb Mami, whose real name is Mohammed Khalifati, was found guilty at a trial in Bobigny, a Parisian suburb.

He had denied the charges, telling the court that he had been "manipulated" by his entourage.

The singer is credited with bringing Algeria's popular Rai folk music to an international audience.

The maximum sentence was 10 years and the prosecution had asked for seven.

Prosecutors had said that Cheb Mami was one of a group who abducted and beat the woman, a French photographer, in the Algerian capital, Algiers, in 2005.

Still pregnant

They said she came to Algeria believing she was on a business trip, a few days after telling Cheb Mami, 42, that she was pregnant.

Court sketch at trial of Cheb Mami
Cheb Mami expressed remorse during the trial, pictured in this court sketch

She said that she was drugged and taken to a villa in Algiers. There, three people tried to perform an abortion.

On her return to France, she discovered she was still pregnant and later gave birth to a daughter, now aged three.

France issued an international arrest warrant for Cheb Mami after he skipped bail in Paris in May 2007 and fled to Algeria.

He returned to Paris on Monday, saying he wanted to attend the trial, and was arrested at Orly airport.

He had denied involvement in the attempted abortion and said he was being persecuted because he was a successful Arab star.

The star showed no emotion as the verdict was read out.

But during the trial he had expressed remorse and asked 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.

Cheb Mami blamed his former manager Michel Lecorre - also known as Michel Levy - saying he was behind the plot.

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

Michel Lecorre was sentenced to four years for plotting and organising the assault.

The court also issued arrest warrants for two of the singer's aides, Hicham Lazaar and Abdelkader Lallali.

They were convicted in absentia of involvement in the case and were sentenced to three and six years in jail respectively.

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