Nanterre (France) (AFP) - Congolese music star Koffi Olomide went on trial in France on Monday on charges of sexually assaulting four former dancers who say they were held against their will at a villa outside Paris.
It was not clear if Olomide, whose real name is Antoine Agbepa Mumba, was present for the beginning of the hearing behind closed doors at the court in Nanterre just west of the capital.
The 62-year-old, a pioneer of the soukous genre that grew out of Congolese rumba, denies the assault charges as well as allegations he helped the dancers enter France illegally and withheld their pay.
The dancers say they were detained by three men at the villa in Asnieres-sur-Seine, northwest of Paris, while Olomide was touring or recording in France from 2002 to 2006, and had their passports and phones taken.
They say that they were forced to have sex with Olomide, who struck them if they tried to resist, in the villa, in the bathroom of a supermarket, and also while in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The four dancers managed to make a night-time escape from the villa in June 2006, and have not returned to their country since then for fear of reprisals.
Olomide left France in 2009 after he was charged, and his lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny told AFP last week it was not certain the singer would appear in court.
It is not the first time Olomide has been charged with violence.
He was briefly jailed in DRCongo in 2016 for kicking one of his dancers, and had already been given a suspended three-month prison sentence in 2012 for striking his producer.
He is also currently sought by Zambian police for striking a Rwandan photojournalist in Lusaka in 2012.
Olomide already had a brush with the law in France, with a court handing him a suspended one-year prison sentence for tax fraud in 2006.