Rokia Traoré: Paris court releases Mali singer but backs extradition

File image of Mali singer Rokia TraoréImage copyright AFP
Image caption Rokia Traoré went on hunger strike at Fleury-Mérogis prison

A Paris appeals court has conditionally released the Malian singer Rokia Traoré but said she can be extradited to Belgium over a child custody dispute.

Ms Traoré was detained at Charles de Gaulle airport on 10 March by police acting on a Belgian arrest warrant.

Following the court ruling, her lawyers vowed to contest the extradition.

Last year a Belgian court ordered Ms Traoré to hand over her five-year-old daughter to her estranged former partner, a Belgian national.

The Belgian warrant accuses her of kidnapping and hostage-taking.

The Paris court was told that travel restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic meant an extradition could not go ahead at the moment.

“Under the circumstances, we cannot organise Ms Traoré’s transfer to the Belgian authorities,” the court’s advocate general said.

The singer’s lawyer, Kenneth Feliho, said they would appeal to France’s top court and the European Court of Human Rights “if we have to”. “The fight with the Belgian judiciary will go on.”

Ms Traoré is one of Africa’s best known vocalists and became a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees in 2015 in West and Central Africa.

Addressing the court by video from the prison where she was being detained, she confirmed newspaper reports that she had been on hunger strike and added: “Even though I live in Mali, I have always responded to Belgian legal authorities.”

When Ms Traoré was arrested she was travelling from Bamako to Brussels where she intended to appeal against the decision of the Belgian court to grant full custody to her former partner, her lawyers said.

Earlier this month, Mali’s government issued a statement in support of the singer saying that she has a diplomatic passport. A petition calling for her release was signed by more than 30,000 people.

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