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A Moroccan singer popular in the Arab world has been sentenced in France to six years in prison for rape in a high-profile case that prompted a backlash against the star, online insults at the victim and even intervention by the Moroccan king.
Saad Lamjarred was found guilty by a jury and three judges on Friday of assaulting and raping a young woman at a luxury hotel on the Champs-Élysées in 2016 while she was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, the Associated Press reported. He has 10 days to appeal the verdict.
Lamjarred, 37, met the victim at a Paris nightclub in October 2016. They went to his hotel, where the victim, who was 20 at the time of the attack, said she agreed to kiss him but the singer beat and raped her when she refused further advances from him.
The court and jury found the victim had remained consistent on her bank statements, while Lamjarred’s statements were “variable and evolving”. Lamjarred maintained his innocence throughout the trial and told the judge on the last day of the trial: “I absolutely did not do what I am accused of,” according to French media.
The victim burst into tears as the verdict was announced. “I spoke for myself, but also for everyone else,” she later told Radio France Internationale. “I hope it opened their eyes. yes it is long yes it is hard But it’s not impossible.”
Lamjarred is behind one of the most successful modern Arabic language songs, “Lm3allem”, which has been viewed more than a billion times on YouTube.
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When the rape case against Lamjarred broke in 2016, the Moroccan king intervened in an unusual way, appointing a lawyer to defend Lamjarred and saying he would pay the star’s legal fees. News of that decision has since been erased from Moroccan state media, while the appointed lawyer confirmed to a Moroccan news website in 2018 that he was no longer representing Lamjarred.
Before the court ruling, Lamjarred was free to continue singing abroad and appearing in songs by some of the biggest names in Arabic music. However, he also faced a backlash in parts of the Middle East when one of his scheduled performances in Cairo in 2020 was canceled after an outcry on social media under the Arabic hashtag: “We don’t want Saad Lamjarred in Egypt.”
Speak Up, an Egyptian feminist group that has supported calls for Lamjarred’s concerts in the country to be canceled, called the verdict “good news”. His victim, meanwhile, said she received death threats and insults after the attack after her name was leaked by a blogger.
“It has been a year since I was physically assaulted, beaten and raped. I’ve been hiding from the media for a year, hiding from everyone, but everyone’s talking about me,” she said in a 2017 video in which she first spoke publicly about the case.
“So many people talked about me, insulted me, but nobody supported me except my family and friends,” she said at the time. According to French news reports, the court found at the trial that she was showing signs of post-traumatic stress. Lamjarred was also charged with the 2018 rape of a woman in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera, although a trial date has not yet been set, according to the Associated Press.