By Hilary White

BOBIGNY, France, July 6, 2009 ( – A well-known Algerian singer has been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to force his former girlfriend to have an abortion in 2005. Mohamed Khelifati, known by his stage name “Cheb Mami,” told the court, “I was ashamed to have an illegitimate child. A child should be born from a union. I didn't want this child.”

Khelifati was arrested at Orly airport in Paris in June and charged with complicity in kidnapping, group assault on a vulnerable person, threatening a victim and administering harmful substances. France had issued an international arrest warrant for him after the singer skipped bail in Paris in May 2007 and fled back to Algeria.

Khelifati, a leading figure in the popular “rai” folk-rock music craze, was sentenced with his manager Michel Levy, after being convicted of drugging, beating and kidnapping his former girlfriend, French photographer Isabelle Simon, and attempting to forcibly abort her child in the summer of 2005. Simon told the court that she had been taken to a villa in Algiers where three people tried to perform an abortion. She discovered after returning to France that the abortion had failed and she gave birth to a baby girl who is 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,” Simon testified in court.

Levy was also convicted and received a four-year sentence, along with two other accomplices who did not appear in court. Isabelle Simon was awarded 95,000 Euros in damages.

In response to the conviction, Khelifati said in court, “I saw the fetus   I don't know, I don't know   I made a mistake,” he said. “It's against my principles, my religion. I can't explain it. I made a mistake, a serious one, it's a nightmare. I wasn't at the villa, but I knew what was happening.”

Khelifati had previously complained to Algerian media that he was being “persecuted” because he is a successful Arab. “The biggest mistake of my life was to have followed the bad advice of my Jewish manager,” he told the Algerian press. He spoke of a “hard almost orchestrated French media against a famous Arabic name.”

Khelifati has sold more than 20 million records worldwide.


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