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Lebanon singer Fadel Shaker sentenced to 22 years in prison with hard labour

Lebanese singer Fadel Shaker in Abu Dhabi, UAE late on 4 December 2009 [IBRAHIM ADAWI/AFP/Getty Images]
Lebanese singer Fadel Shaker in Abu Dhabi, UAE late on 4 December 2009 [IBRAHIM ADAWI/AFP/Getty Images]

A Lebanese military court has sentenced famous artist-turned fugitive Fadel Shaker to 22 years imprisonment with hard labour. According to the official National News Agency, two rulings were issued in absentia.

The first sentence originally handed down in 2017 for 15 years was for "knowingly" providing logistic support for terrorist acts and another seven years was added for financing the jihadist group of Salafi preacher Ahmad Al-Assir, who were responsible for killing 18 Lebanese soldiers in the southern city of Sidon during clashes in 2013 following the spill-over of violence from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

The artist, once known as the "King of Romance" for his love ballads, was also stripped of his civil rights and fined $3.3 million (five million Lebanese lira). His mentor and associate Al-Assir was arrested by Lebanese authorities in 2015 while trying to flee to Egypt having evaded capture for two years and had even undergone plastic surgery to change his appearance. He was sentenced to death in the 2017 judgement although such sentences are rarely carried out and are usually commuted to a life sentence.

READ: Lebanon: Activist sentenced to 3 years labour over alleged Israel ties

Al-Assir gained popularity among some Sunni circles over his staunch and vocal opposition to the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, particularly following its involvement in Syria in support of President Bashar Al-Assad.

Shaker was born Fadel Abulrahman Shmander to a Lebanese father and Palestinian mother in Sidon. He began to struggle with his fame over the years, once stating in a 2009 interview, "Money from art has no blessing in it," adding "I found art to be a big lie." Following the uprising in Syria in 2011, Shaker turned his back on the music business, describing it as "sinful" and soon became Al-Assir's right hand man, appearing alongside him at his rallies and would recite nasheeds or religious songs to uplift the crowds.

Shaker is currently on the run and believed to be taking refuge in the Ain El-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp, which is the largest in the country with over 120,000 residents. He has sought to reform himself and renounced radical ideologies and has since released new music tracks and continues to upload songs to his official YouTube account with songs in Gulf and Egyptian dialects, most recently as two days ago with the track "Stay Meet Me".

READ: Egypt drops Fadel Shaker from TV series

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