Convicted Papa Wemba walks free

16th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

BOBIGNY, France, Nov 16 (AFP) - African music star Papa Wemba was convicted of people-smuggling Tuesday but walked free from a French court because he has already served four months in jail.

BOBIGNY, France, Nov 16 (AFP) - African music star Papa Wemba was convicted of people-smuggling Tuesday but walked free from a French court because he has already served four months in jail.

The 55-year-old Congolese singer was given a 30-month jail term, 26 of them suspended, after being found guilty of "assistance to the illegal entry or residence of foreigners."

However as he spent the same period in provisional detention following his arrest in February 2003, it was in effect a non-custodial sentence.

There were shouts of joy from the singer's fans in the courtroom in the Paris suburb of Bobigny when the verdict was read out.

Eight other defendants, including Papa Wemba's wife, were also convicted and given lesser sentences.

At last month's trial the state prosecutor asked the court to hand down a five-year jail term on the singer, whose real name is Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba.

He was accused of taking sums of EUR 3,500 (USD 4,500) in order to procure visas at the French embassy in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for immigrants who then flew to Paris as apparent members of his entourage.

Papa Wemba admitted being paid by seven people, but told the court that the other cases were organised without his knowledge.

French police grew suspicious in December 2001 when 90 DRC nationals got off a plane in Paris and claimed to be his band members.

A flamboyant figure with a huge following in his home country, Papa Wemba has been dubbed the king of rumba-rock and won worldwide acclaim when the fashion for African and world music took hold in Europe and the United States in the 1980s.

He is also renowned as the moving spirit behind a cult movement known as "Sapeurs" whose members - young men - spend huge amounts of money on designer clothes.

He was detained in Paris in February 2003 and released in June of the same year. The singer now faces similar charges in Belgium.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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