French rapper MHD has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for the 2018 murder of a young man in Paris who was rammed with a car before being set upon by a mob and stabbed.
Five of his fellow defendants were also jailed over the killing, receiving terms of between 10 and 18 years over what prosecutors said was a fight between rival gangs. Three other men were acquitted.
Those convicted, who all pleaded not guilty, have 10 days to appeal.
During MHD’s final statement to the court before it retired to consider its verdict after three weeks of proceedings, he again said he was innocent. “From the beginning, I have maintained my innocence in this case and I will continue to maintain my innocence,” he told the packed court.
On the night of July 5th, 2018, 23-year-old Loic K was rammed by a black Mercedes and then beaten up and stabbed by about a dozen people in the French capital’s 10th arrondissement.
MHD, whose real name is Mohamed Sylla, denied having been at the scene, but a local resident filmed the incident from his window and the Mercedes was identified as belonging to MHD.
Other witnesses identified MHD by his haircut or a sweatshirt by Puma — for which he was a brand ambassador — according to investigative reports seen by Agence France-Presse.
The car was found abandoned and burned out in a car park a day after the killing.
MHD pioneered afro-trap — a mix of hip-hop and African traditions — and rose to fame after becoming a viral sensation in 2015. The 29-year-old was charged with homicide in January 2019 and imprisoned. He was freed after a year-and-a-half in custody while investigations continued, and released a new album.
As Saturday’s verdict was handed down, several women in the public gallery burst into tears. MHD hugged one of them, maintaining his composure.
Juliette Chapelle, a lawyer for the victim’s family, said: “A judicial truth emerged despite the law of silence.”
The prosecutor had asked for an 18-year prison sentence for the rapper, acquittals for two of the accused and jail sentences of 13 to 20 years for the others.
The killing happened in the Cite des Chaufourniers, an estate in the area that the former pizza delivery driver continued to frequent despite his fame.
The football-mad performer, who was born in France to Guinean and Senegalese parents, is best known for Afro Trap Part 3 (Champions League), a song in praise of the Paris Saint-Germain football club. He had made waves abroad, drawing admiration from global stars such as Drake and Madonna. — Guardian