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Fame and celebrity

French rappers get suspended sentences, fines for destructive airport brawl

The prosecutor said the rappers acted out of fear of ‘becoming the laughing stock of their entourage but also of the internet’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 9:20pm

Two of France’s biggest rap stars were handed 18-month suspended prison sentences on Tuesday over a brawl between their entourages that forced the partial shutdown of a Paris airport.

The fracas between bitter rivals Booba and Kaaris in a duty-free shop at Orly airport on August 1 went viral after bystanders filmed the fight on their phones.

The court also fined them both 50,000 (US$57,000), while nine members of their entourage involved in the fight were handed suspended sentences of up to 12 months in jail.

The rappers, who were on their way to a concert in Barcelona when the fight broke out, have waged a feud on social media for years, with users often urging them to settle their differences with their fists.

Booba, whose real name in Elie Yaffa, launched the first kick but it was Kaaris, aka Okou Gnakouri, who squared up to his opponent, prompting members of their entourages to get involved, the prosecutor told the court in Creteil in the southeastern suburbs of Paris.

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“Under the gaze of passengers and social media, this encounter could only end in physical confrontation,” the prosecutor said, adding that each rapper had created public personas that were “strong”, “violent” and “excessive”.

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In this context, to “look down, look away, ignore the other, that would already have been to lose face”, said the prosecutor, who had called for one-year suspended sentences.

The rappers “lost all lucidity” and acted out of fear of “becoming the laughing stock of their entourage but also of the internet”, the prosecutor added.

Booba, 41, told the court he “simply defended himself” and kicked out because he felt “surrounded” and “threatened” by Kaaris and his group.

Kaaris, 38, said “it’s really not my fault, I had no choice” and he “acted in self-defence from start to finish”.

Both men spent time in solitary confinement in separate jails near Paris before being released on bail last month.