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France

Airport punch-up French rappers remanded in custody

media French rapper Kaaris (R) is taken to court on Friday AFP

A French judge has decided that rival rappers Booba and Kaaris, along with nine companions, are to remain in custody after a violent scuffle at Paris's Orly Airport on Wednesday. They appeared in court on Friday and a new hearing has been set for September.

A French district court has ordered rival rappers Booba (Elie Yaffa) and Kaaris (Okou Gnakouri) to remain in custody until their hearing on 6 September.

The pair face charges after a fight erupted at the airport between the two men and the groups accompanying them.

Nine of their companions are also being kept in custody.

Dramatic trial, Benalla case evoked

The two gangs appeared in the defendants' box facing each other with surly looks, adding more drama to the heated incident. The arguments were emotional and vociferous, as reported by French daily Le Monde.

One of Kaaris's lawyers, David-Olivier Kaminsky, evoked the case of Alexandre Benalla, a member of President Emmanuel Macron's security detail who was caught on video apparently manhandling young protesters while wearing a police crash helmet.

"It seems that there's only one way of being acquitted," Kaminsky commented. "To have a friend in the police force, a helmet or some other privilege to circumvent the law."

The court placed 11 of the accused behind bars, going beyond the public prosecutor's request for seven detentions.

The judge claimed that this was to prevent new gang fights and protect all concerned.

The rival rappers, along with nine other gang members, were placed in preventive custody on Wednesday following a violent scuffle at the Paris Orly Airport.

Both Booba and Kaaris, along with their entourages, were travelling to Barcelona, but before boarding realised that they were on the same flight. This sparked off a violent punch-up at the boarding area, video of which has been widely circulated on social networks.

Paris Airports and Air France press charges

Paris Airports has pressed charges for financial and reputational damage caused by disorderly public behaviour, as well as for endangering people's lives. Air France and the Orly Airport Duty Free shop are also amongst the plaintiffs, claiming 8,500 euros for flight delays and 54,000 euros for damaged goods respectively.

Booba has condemned the events as "inexcusable" and "deplorable", saying he was ready to pay half of the damages incurred.

If found guilty, the defendants could face up to seven years in prison and a 100,000-euro fine.

Rap wars and social network fame

Booba rose to rap star fame in the 1990s, while Kaaris gained renown in the early 2010s.

Kaaris was, ironically, Booba's protegé but relations soon turned bitter and the two started openly clashing on social networks.

Booba has also been in the limelight for clashes with other rival rap stars.

A fight ensued in 2012 in Miami with rap artist La Fouine, and in 2014 rival artist Rohff was sentenced to five years of prison for having vandalised an outlet selling Booba-branded clothes.

However, investigators are not ruling out the possibilty of a media stunt, not uncommon in the rap world.

"They were in a neutral public place without guns. They knew that a confrontation would not cause much damage. This may not just be chance," a police source told the AFP news agency.

To prevent any further incidents, the two rival rappers have been sent to different prisons in the Paris region.

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