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Malian singer detained in Italy over child custody row
Malian singer Rokia Traoré
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Malian singer detained in Italy over child custody row

Famous Malian singer Rokia Traoré has been arrested at the main international airport in Italy's capital Rome over a conviction in Belgium arising from a child custody dispute.

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She was arrested at Fiumicino airport as she flew in for a concert, Italian media reported.

A spokesperson for the airport told the AFP news agency on Sunday that border police had confirmed her arrest.

Traoré was initially detained in France in 2020 on a Belgian arrest warrant after failing to heed a court order to hand over her child to her Belgian father.

Months after she was conditionally released, she flew out to Mali on a private flight, defying a ban from leaving France until her extradition to Belgium.

Last October, Traoré was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison by a court in Belgium on charges of parental abduction for "failing to hand over a child to the person entitled to custody", Belgian prosecutors told AFP.

Her daughter, who is now aged nine years, has lived in Mali since turning four.

A lawyer for the child's father, Traoré's former partner, reportedly said he had not had any contact with his daughter since then.

When she was initially arrested in 2020, she had been travelling from Mali to Brussels intending to appeal against the custody ruling, her lawyers had said.

Mali's government then came out in support of the singer, saying that she had a diplomatic passport.

Traoré is one of Africa's best known vocalists. She has won several awards, including the BBC Award for World Music in 2004 and the 2009 World Music Album of the year in the Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent of the Grammys.

She is also known for her advocacy work for refugees, becoming a goodwill ambassador for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees in 2015 in West and Central Africa.

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