- European football
Ribery and Benzema trial begins
The trial of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema on charges of having sex with an underage prostitute began in Paris on Tuesday.
Ribery, 30, and 25-year-old Benzema are two of eight defendants. They could be sentenced to three years in prison and fines of €45,000 if found guilty.
The case was brought to the attention of police by an anonymous tip-off in September 2009.
Ribery and Benzema allegedly met Zahia Defar, then a prostitute, in a Champs-Elysees nightclub before engaging in sexual relations with her when she was under 18.
Bayern Munich's Ribery has admitted flying Defar to the Bavarian city and having sex with her in April 2009, but maintains the €700 he paid covered transport, hotel and food costs.
Benzema is alleged to have taken Defar back to his hotel and slept with her for €500 following the French Union of Professional Footballers' (UNFP) awards dinner in Paris in May 2008.
The Real Madrid striker will argue in court that he had been in a hotel talking to his agent on the night in question.
"It's a very simple case," Daniel Vaconsin, Defar's lawyer, told L'Equipe. "Were either of Messrs Benzema and Ribery, at any time, able to realise that they were soliciting favours for money from a young girl aged 16 or 17?"
Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer told the German media that Ribery could count on the club's backing.
"Of course we are concerned with it - we cannot pass on a topic like this," he said. "We have a responsibility to our player and will signal to him that we are on his side, and he'll get the best support from us."
Carlo Alberto Brusa, Ribery's lawyer, will reportedly demand that the case is heard behind closed doors in order to protect the privacy of his client. The hearing will stretch over four days, ending next Wednesday.
Defar, now 21, who came to France from her native Algeria at the age of ten, has "turned the page", according to Vaconsin. She will not be present in court, but has been called as a witness.
The lawyer said his client wanted access to the case file and would not be claiming compensation from the defendants.