Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema to go on trial over allegations of sex with underage prostitute
FOOTBALL By -BBC | January 22nd 2014
The French football stars deny the allegations and former call girl, Zahia Dehar, says neither knew she was under 18 at the time
|Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery and Zahia Dehar|
The trial of French footballers Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, charged with having sex with an underage prostitute, is due to begin in Paris.
Bayern Munich winger Ribery, 30, and Real Madrid striker Benzema, 26, deny knowingly paying for sex with Zahia Dehar while she was under 18.
They each face up to three years in prison and fines of up to 45,000 euros ($55,000).
Neither was expected to attend the trial's start, Mr Ribery's lawyer said.
Ms Dehar is not expected to attend either.
Carlo Alberto Brusa, Mr Ribery's lawyer, struck an upbeat note. "We are going in confident and we are going to fight," he said.
Ms Dehar has also withdrawn as a civil plaintiff in the case. "She is not asking for anything," said her lawyer, Daniel Vaconsin.
The two players are accused of paying for sex with Ms Dehar when she was 16, in Mr Benzema's case, and 17, in Mr Ribery's.
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The age of consent is 15 in France, but paying for sex with anyone under 18 is a crime.
The trial is going ahead after France's highest court ruled that only those aware that a prostitute was underage can be found guilty of breaking the law.
Mr Ribery's brother-in-law is also charged with soliciting a minor for sex, and five other accused face maximum prison terms of 10 years on charges relating to the case, including "aggravated pimping".
Mr Ribery has admitted having sex with Ms Dehar after she was flown to Munich in 2009 as a "present" for his 26th birthday, but maintains he could not have known she was not 18 at the time.
Mr Benzema, who is accused of paying for sex with Ms Dehar in a Paris hotel, denies that any encounter took place.
Ms Dehar, now 21, became a celebrity following the scandal and has since established herself as a designer of luxury lingerie, thanks partly to being befriended and promoted by Lagerfeld.
She has testified that she had sex with both players for money after lying to them about her age.
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