French footballers stand trial in underage prostitution case
Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery: goes on trial in Paris accused of paying for sex with a teenage call girl. Photograph: Michael Dalder/Reuters
Bayern Munich winger Ribery and Real Madrid striker Benzema have been under investigation in their home country for more than two years on allegations of paying Zahia Dehar, then a minor, for sex in 2008 and 2009.
None of them are expected to appear at the criminal court for the trial that is expected to run until June 26th. The ruling could come later.
The scandal came ahead of the 2010 World Cup, further damaging the image of a French squad already tarnished by internal bickering, public tantrums and defeats.
Algerian-born Dehar, now 21, has since become designer Karl Lagerfeld’s muse and protegé, launching her own lingerie line.
State prosecutors have requested the case be dropped, however, arguing the footballers did not know Dehar was a minor.
Under France’s legal system, prosecutors, who represent the state, can open an investigation and appoint independent judges to lead it. As the investigation moves along, prosecutors can change their mind and recommend dropping the case, but the judges can ignore this advice and call a trial anyway.
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 for sex.
Ribery has acknowledged the encounter but said he did not know she was underage, nor that she was a prostitute.
Benzema has denied any encounter and his lawyer said he would not comment on the case before the beginning of the trial.