French footballers face 'underage sex' trial

Bayern Munich and Real Madrid stars to go on trial for paying for sex in 2008 and 2009 with prostitute, then a minor.

    French footballers face 'underage sex' trial
    Dehar was 16 years old when the crime allegedly took place [EPA]

    French footballers Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, accused of paying for sex with an underage call girl, will go on trial in Paris after being investigated for two years.

    Bayern Munich winger Ribery and Real Madrid striker Benzema are to stand trial on Tuesday on allegations of paying Zahia Dehar, then a minor, for sex in 2008 and 2009.    

    Ribery's lawyer, Carlo-Alberto Brusa, said his client was innocent and should not be expected to show up in court.

    "In French law, it's not forbidden to make love to a woman and even to pay her for it, what is forbidden is to do it with a minor," he told Reuters. "When a woman travels around Europe by plane, can you imagine thinking for one second that she's a minor?"

    Ribery has acknowledged the encounter but said he did not know she was underage, nor that she was a prostitute. He said he only gave her 200 euros for a taxi ride to the airport.

    The trial is expected to run until June 26.

    The scandal, which exposed footballers' tastes for flings and partying, came ahead of the 2010 World Cup, further damaging the image of a French squad already tarnished by internal bickering, public tantrums and defeats.

    Possible sentences

    Algerian-born Dehar, now 21, has since become designer Karl Lagerfeld's muse and protegee, launching her own lingerie line.    

    The footballers could be sentenced to up to three years in jail and fines of $60,000 if found guilty of soliciting the services of an underage prostitute.    

    According to court documents, Dehar had been a prostitute since the age of 15 or 16, but would tell clients she was 18.

    She said she was flown in from Paris to Munich in 2009 for Ribery's 26th birthday party in a luxury hotel, and that he paid her 700 euros for sex.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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