A courtroom artist sketched R. Kelly (second right) in court as his trial began

The trial of the US R&B singer R. Kelly has begun at a court in Brooklyn, New York.

The star is accused of racketeering, sexual abuse and bribery; charges which he has repeatedly denied.

Some of the allegations made against the singer – whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly – date back more than 20 years.

If he is convicted on all counts he could be sentenced to several decades in prison.

Opening statements were delivered to a jury of seven men and five women, who will decide the 54-year-old singer’s fate.

Kelly faces charges that he was the ringleader of a two-decade scheme where he recruited women and underage girls for sex.

“This case is about a predator,” Assistant US Attorney Maria Melendez said in her opening statement.

“This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot.”

She described Kelly as “a man who used lies, manipulation, threats and physical abuse to dominate his victims and to avoid accountability for years”.

The Grammy-winning artist – wearing a gray suit, purple tie, and glasses – sat silently, his head down at times as the prosecution opened its case.

Melendez said Kelly’s celebrity status meant he “had his pick of young fans” and that he hoarded his victims “like objects” and used “every trick in the predator handbook”.

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