Footballers on trial over sex with underage prostitute

Footballers on trial over sex with underage prostitute
Published: 2014 January 21 07:00:06 (15137 Views)
The trial of French footballers Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, 30, and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, 26, charged with having sex with an underage prostitute, has begun in Paris.

They 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 present in court, allowing their lawyers to represent them.

Ms Dehar, now 21, did not attend either.

Earlier 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Ms Dehar has also withdrawn as a civil plaintiff in the case.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.

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.

The prosecutors believed there was no case to answer - it is the investigating magistrates that have pushed this case, reports the BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris.

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 has testified that she had sex with both players for money after lying to them about her age.

The footballers were initially investigated as part of a probe into an alleged under-age prostitution ring centred on a Champs-Elysees nightclub.

The allegations about their conduct caused an outcry and prompted criticism from politicians including the then President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But both have since bounced back, with Mr Ribery recently coming third in the recent Ballon d'Or vote for Europe's best player.

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 fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.



Source - BBC

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