French rapper MHD faces verdict over youth’s murder

Acclaimed French rapper MHD was on Saturday awaiting with eight co-accused a verdict in the trial over the murder of a young man in Paris in 2018.

MHD, whose real name is Mohamed Sylla, once again insisted on his innocence as he made his final statements before the court retired to render the verdict after three weeks of proceedings.

“From the beginning, I have maintained my innocence in this case and I will continue to maintain my innocence,” he told the packed court.

The prosecutor has asked for an 18-year prison sentence for the rapper, acquittals for two of the accused, and jail sentences of 13-20 years for the others.

The verdict is due to be delivered later in the day.

His seven co-accused present in court — an eighth is being tried in absentia — have also insisted they were not involved in the violent attack on Loic K. in July 2018 that resulted in his death.

The death of the 23-year-old man has been portrayed by investigators as a settling of scores between rival gangs.

MHD, who rose to fame with a distinctive blend of West African sounds with US-style hip-hop, was charged with homicide in January 2019 and imprisoned.

He has denied taking part in the assault, which saw the victim rammed by a black Mercedes and then beaten up and stabbed by around a dozen people in a gritty part of the capital’s 10th arrondissement.

But a local resident filmed the incident from his window, and the Mercedes was quickly identified as belonging to MHD.

Other witnesses identified the rapper by his haircut or a Puma sweatshirt, for which he was a brand ambassador, according to investigative reports seen by AFP.

The incident concerns the Cite des Chaufourniers, a low-income estate in the area that the former pizza delivery driver continued to frequent despite his fame.

He was released in the summer of 2020 after a year and a half in custody as the investigations continued and released a new album.

MHD is seen as a pioneer of afro-trap, which mixes hip-hop and African traditions.

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.