A court in France has dropped a charge of rape against Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred, but the star is set to face two charges of sexual assault in the new year, after being arrested for a second offence in August.
Lamjarred, who was accused of raping 20-year-old actress Laura Prioul in Paris in 2016, will instead face charges of sexual assault and willful violence for the incident. Eyewitnesses reported that Lamjarred was under the influence of alcohol and recreational drugs when he physically fought his French girlfriend, who immediately went to the police, resulting in his subsequent arrest.
According to sources close to the case, Lamjarred’s rape charge has been re-qualified as sexual assault as occurs with a large proportion of reported rapes in France; the trial will consequently not take place in the Court of Assizes where more serious crimes are judged.
However, the pop star is also facing a second count of sexual assault, after being re-arrested in August of this year in Saint-Tropez, after a waitress claimed Lamjarred assaulted her in a nightclub on the French Riviera.
The 33-year-old was arrested for the second time and is currently being held in Draguignan jail after an appeals court refused his bail.
Lamjarred has previously walked away from allegations of sexual assault relatively unscathed, and enjoys the support of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who also contributed to the artist’s legal costs when he was arrested in 2016.
The news of his acquittal was met with concern from some on social media, with Moroccan anti-harassment campaign Masaktach reacting to the news on Twitter.
Selon Mediapart, les juges français ont décidé de retenir la qualification d'agression sexuelle, et non de viol, à l'encontre de Saad Lamjarred dans la première affaire qui l'oppose à Laura Prioul.
Ceci n'a absolument rien d'étonnant.
— Masaktach (@masaktach) November 18, 2018
“This is not surprising. In France, judges often re-categorise rape cases as sexual assault, thus turning a crime into a criminal offence, in order to avoid bringing the case to a court of Assizes. These re-qualifications are usually decided by the judges to avoid the victims the length of the procedure to the assizes, for financial reasons,” the group said.
Lamjarred’s case has been closely followed in Morocco in the wake of several disturbing sexual assaults. In August, Moroccan police arrested 12 men in connection with the rape and torture of a 17-year-old girl, who had expletives, crude drawings and even swastikas tattooed across her body by her attackers.
Earlier this year, Morocco passed a law criminalising abuse against women, including all “acts considered forms of harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill-treatment”, but the bill was criticised for failing to mention the problem of marital rape and aspects of the Family Law which sets women as at disadvantage.
According to Morocco’s National Human Rights Council in 2015, more than 20 per cent of Moroccan women have been sexually abused at least once in their lives, with three-quarters of women experiencing some form of sexual harassment in public.