July 2, 2009 / 4:17 PM / 10 years ago

Algerian star tried in France over forced abortion

BOBIGNY, France (Reuters) - Algerian singer Cheb Mami went on trial in France on Thursday over accusations that he forced his former lover into an attempted abortion in 2005.

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

Mami has denied any involvement. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a 150,000 euro ($211,700) fine.

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 is charged with having his partner, a French photographer, abducted in August 2005, a few days after she told him she was pregnant. His agent, Michel Le Corre, and two other men will also be tried.

Le Corre is accused of having lured the woman to Algiers under the pretext of a business trip. One of the other men then allegedly 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 to be present at the trial.

Writing by Sophie Hardach, editing by Paul Casciato

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