Europe 1 with AFP / Photo credit: ALAIN JOCARD / AFP 07:27, September 24, 2023

Rapper star of "afro-trap" and recognized by several international artists, MHD was incarcerated for a year and a half in the case of the death of Loïc K., hit by a Mercedes and beaten in 2018. He has just been sentenced to twelve years in prison, after having claimed his innocence one last time.

From rising star of the "afro-trap" to the prison box: the rapper MHD was sentenced Saturday to 12 years in prison at the assizes of Paris, where he appeared with eight co-accused for the murder of a young man in 2018, as part of a settling of scores between rival gangs. Five of his co-defendants were also sentenced to between 10 and 18 years' imprisonment.

"A judicial truth"

Three other men were acquitted, the court considering that one of them, Wissem E., was not at the scene at the time of the crime, and that for the other two, Saber B. and Moussa K., it did not have sufficient evidence to convict them. The prosecution had requested 18 years in prison against the artist, whose real name is Mohamed Sylla, 13 to 20 years in prison against six other defendants, and two acquittals.

When the verdict was announced, several women in the audience, relatives of the accused, burst into tears. MHD remained stoic, before hugging a crying woman. He was then taken directly to the depot. His lawyers declined to comment after the verdict. "Heavy hearing, but a judicial truth has emerged despite the code of silence," responded Juliette Chapelle, lawyer for the family of the victim, Loïc K. Convicts have 10 days to appeal.

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A settling of scores between young people at the heart of the issue

On Saturday morning, the rapper had claimed his innocence one last time, in front of a packed room, before the court retired to deliberate. On the night of July 5 to 6, 2018, Loïc K., a 23-year-old man, was deliberately knocked down by a Mercedes in the tenth arrondissement of Paris, then beaten by a dozen men and lacerated with stab wounds. He dies, lying in his blood, a few tens of minutes after the departure of his attackers.

The car was found the next day, set on fire, in a parking lot. At the heart of the case, a settling of accounts between young people from the city of Chaufourniers, nicknamed the red city, from which the accused come, and the neighboring one of the Grange aux Belles, located in the tenth and nineteenth arrondissements. This case has clearly slowed down the career of the artist, pioneer of "afro-trap", a mixture of hip-hop and African music, revealed in 2015 thanks to a video posted on YouTube that went viral, the starting point of a meteoric rise.

From pizza deliveryman, he becomes in a few months a star recognized not only in France but also abroad, where he is noticed by artists like Madonna or Drake. A "success story" put on hold by his arrest and his placement in pre-trial detention - he will remain incarcerated for a year and a half before being released under judicial control.

"Code of silence" and "rumour"

In this case, the rapper, who despite his success continued to frequent the city of Chaufourniers between two tours, was implicated by several witnesses who said that he was at the scene of the crime, which he disputes from the beginning. Investigators also establish that the burned Mercedes belonged to him and one of the videos of the scene, taken from an apartment, shows an African man with dyed blond hair, dressed in a Puma tracksuit. However, at that time, MHD had peroxidized hair and was an ambassador for the sportswear brand.

On Friday, his lawyers, Elise Arfi and Antoine Vey, had pleaded acquittal for their client, as had done before them the lawyers of the other accused. This case was illustrated, throughout the investigation and then the three weeks of trial, by the "code of silence" to which the accused, but also many witnesses, submitted. Many of them, although summoned, did not appear at the bar. A code of silence dictated by the "fear of reprisals", according to several people.

In their pleadings on Thursday and Friday, the defense counsel had pounded the way the investigations were conducted, castigating a file "built from a rumor" and relying on "lame" elements and testimonies lacking objectivity.