French rappers freed after brawl shuts Paris airport

Marie DHUMIERES, Fiachra GIBBONS
Video of the fracas between rappers Booba and Kaaris in a duty-free shop inside the departure hall of Orly airport on August 1 went viral after holidaymakers filmed the fight on their phones

Two of France's biggest rap stars were released on bail Thursday after a brawl between their entourages forced a partial shutdown of a Paris airport.

The rumble between bitter rivals Booba and Kaaris in the departures hall of Orly airport three weeks ago was filmed by holidaymakers on their phones, as the two groups fought in a duty-free shop.

A judge later ordered that the rappers and nine of their followers be locked up until September 6 because of the "persistent animosity between the two groups".

But an appeal court in Paris on Thursday overruled the decision, setting bail at 30,000 euros ($34,700) for the two artists, who were also ordered to stay away from each other and to hand over their passports.

The two rappers, who were on their way to a concert in Barcelona when the fight broke out, have waged a feud over social media for years.

Other users have often mocked the duo and called on them to settle their differences with their fists.

- Ironic tweet from jail -

Airport bosses said the brawl had "endangered the lives of others", and lodged a public order complaint against the singers after the ruckus forced officials to temporarily shut down the departures hall.

The rappers have been held in solitary confinement in separate jails near Paris since the fight on August 3.

At Thursday's court hearing their lawyers argued that they should never have been held in prison for so long.

Booba, known as the "Duke of Boulogne", posted a scathing tweet through his manager Tuesday comparing the "injustice" of his situation with the supposed impunity afforded to paedophile Roman Catholic priests and Alexandre Benalla, the disgraced former security aide of French President Emmanuel Macron.

"When I grow up I want to be Benalla or a paedophile monk," he said. "Ten years for a fight," he added, in a reference to the maximum sentence he faces. "Does that come with or without (video) streaming?"

Booba, aka Elie Yaffa, reportedly fell out with Kaaris, 38, after failing to support him in a dispute with fellow French artist Rohff.

- Perfume used as weapons -

Rohff was sentenced in November to five years in jail for aggravated assault in a boutique owned by 41-year-old Booba's fashion label.

In documents seen by AFP, Booba told the police that the bad blood between the former friends began "a long time ago... with little verbal stabs" before it degenerated into violence.

Kaaris' lawyers Arash Derambarsh and Yacine Yakouti told a court earlier this month that the singer was "taken aside by Booba, who insulted his child and his wife", before several people "jumped on him".

They claimed perfume and glass bottles were used as weapons in the battle.

But Booba's lawyer Yann Le Bras insisted that video footage showed it was Kaaris -- whose real name is Okou Armand Gnakouri -- and his group whose behaviour had been "very aggressive".

After his client was released on bail, Le Bras told reporters that "this was a decision that should have been taken on August 3. No one was hurt in the fight other than the protagonists," he added.

Kaaris' lawyer Yakouti also hailed the decision, saying that "the important thing today is that Kaaris and his friends can rejoin their families and prepare themselves calmly for the trial."