PARIS (AP) — The trial of popular Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred on charges of aggravated rape and assault got underway in Paris on Monday, in a case that sparked a backlash among feminist activists in North Africa and the Middle East.
The 37-year-old Lamjarred, who is famous on the Arab pop music scene, allegedly raped a French woman at a luxury hotel on the Champs-Elysees in October 2016 while he was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine.
He has denied the allegations. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. A verdict is expected on Friday.
The woman, who was 20 years old at the time, said that she met Lamjarred at a Paris nightclub and accompanied him to his hotel, according to the document summarizing the conclusions of the investigation that was read out by the presiding magistrate at the court.
She said that he struck her several times as she was trying to push him back before he raped her, the document said. She managed to leave the room, and hotel staff reported seeing her crying and in distress.
The woman’s lawyer Jean-Marc Descoubes, told reporters Monday that the alleged victim remains strong, despite the trauma she sustained. “It was extremely violent… It was very traumatic for her. She’s still being treated, but she remains strong, decent and courageous,” said Descoubes.
On Monday, Lamjarred told the court that he rejects the allegations of rape and assault. He acknowledged he had “occasionally” used alcohol and drugs at the time, but has since stopped.
The court said Lamjarred respected the conditions of the judicial supervision he has been under since 2017. Lamjarred is not permitted to perform in France, but has been allowed to leave the country for shows abroad.
Feminist activists in North Africa and the Middle East have in recent years led a campaign against the singer as part of the #MeToo movement, leading some of his shows to be cancelled, especially in Egypt.
Lebanese activist group Akhbar Al-Saha (News From the Square) said in a statement “we hope this court case is an opportunity for those who defend him to think twice and stand with the victims and survivors and not the perpetrator.”
Lamjarred is one of the Arab world’s most popular artists. His music video “Lm3allem” has more than 1 billion views on his YouTube channel, where he has more than 14 million subscribers.
King Mohammed VI awarded him Morocco’s highest national honor in 2015.
Lamjarred has also been charged with the aggravated rape of another woman in August 2018 at a nightclub in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera. A trial date hasn’t been set for that case.
Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to the story.