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Trial of Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema begins in Paris

Jan 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

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The trial of Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribéry and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema began on Monday in Paris, with both facing up to three years in prison if they are found guilty of soliciting an underage prostitute. The trial will end Thursday, and neither player is expected to attend, with both choosing to be represented by their lawyers instead.

While prostitution is legal in France, the prostitutes must be aged 18 or older. Should the players be found guilty, in addition to prison terms they could each face fines of up to $60,000. It is expected that the players’ lawyers ask for the charges against their clients to be dropped.

The players are alleged to have met Zahia Defar, a self-described escort, in a Champs-Elysees nightclub before engaging in sexual relations with her when she was still under age 18. Dehar, now 21, claims Ribéry flew her to Munich as a birthday present to himself in 2009, but states that she lied to the players, telling them she was of legal age.

Ribéry admits to flying Defar to Germany and to having sex with her, but denies paying for sex, saying that the money was for transport, hotel and food costs. The winger also states that he did not know she was a prostitute, and believed she was an adult at the time of the rendezvous.

Benzema is alleged to have had sex with Defar in May 2008, when she was 16 years old, after he won the French Player of the Year award while at Lyon. The Real Madrid man, who scored his 100th goal for the club at the weekend, has denied the allegations outright.

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