A Moroccan singer popular across the Arab world has been sentenced to six years in prison in France for rape in a high-profile case that led to backlash against the star, online abuse against the victim, and even an intervention from the Moroccan king.
Saad Lamjarred was found guilty Friday by a jury and three magistrates of assaulting and raping a young woman at a luxury hotel on the Champs-Élysées in 2016 while 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 nightclub in Paris in October 2016. They went to his hotel, where the victim, who was 20 at the time of the attack, said she consented to kiss him but that the singer hit and raped her when she refused further advances from him.
The court and the jurors found the victim had remained consistent in her account statements, while Lamjarred’s statements had been “variable and evolving.” Lamjarred protested his innocence throughout the case, telling the judge on the final day of the trial: “I absolutely didn’t do what I’ve been accused of,” according to French media.
The victim broke down in tears as the verdict was read out. “I spoke for me, but also for all the others,” she told Radio France Internationale afterward. “I hope it has opened their eyes. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s 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 one billion times on YouTube.
A French mayor convicted of rape is running his town from prison
When the rape case against Lamjarred was announced in 2016, the Moroccan king made an unusual intervention, appointing a lawyer for Lamjarred’s defense and saying he would cover the star’s legal costs. News of that decision has since been deleted 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 verdict, Lamjarred was free to continue singing abroad and featured in songs by some of the biggest names in Arabic music. However, he also faced a backlash in parts of the Middle East, with one of his planned performances in Cairo in 2020 canceled after an outcry on social media under the Arabic hashtag: “We do not want Saad Lamjarred in Egypt.”
Speak Up, an Egyptian feminist initiative that had supported the calls for Lamjarred’s concerts in the country to be canceled, described the verdict as “happy news.” His victim, meanwhile, said she had received death threats and insults following the attack after her name was leaked by a blogger.
“It has now been a year since I was physically attacked, hit, raped. For a year, I have been hiding from the media, hiding from everyone, but everyone is talking about me,” she said in a video in 2017, where she spoke publicly about the case for the first time.
“So many people were talking about me, insulting me, but nobody supported me apart from my family and friends,” she said at the time. At the trial, the court found she showed signs of post-traumatic stress, according to French news reports. Lamjarred has also been charged with the rape of a woman in 2018 in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera, although a trial date has not been set yet, according to the Associated Press.