London, Jan 21: The trial of French footballers Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, who were charged with having sex with an underage prostitute, has reportedly begun in Paris, although neither of them nor the prostitute were present in court.
Both Bayern Munich winger Ribery and Real Madrid striker Benzema, who have denied knowingly paying for sex with Zahia Dehar while she was under 18, face up to three years in prison and fines of up to 55,000 dollars.
According to the BBC, Ribery’s lawyer was confident of success and said that they are going to fight the case, while the lawyer of Dehar, who has withdrawn as a civil plaintiff in the case, insisted that she is not asking for anything.
The report mentioned that the age of consent is 15 in France, but paying for sex with anyone under 18 is a crime, adding that 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 report also said that all three are entitled to stay away from court, and allow their lawyers to do the talking, adding that the footballers were initially investigated as part of a probe into an alleged under-age prostitution ring centred on a Paris nightclub.
Dehar, now 21, became a celebrity following the scandal and has since established herself as a designer of luxury lingerie, befriended and promoted by fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, the report added. (ANI)