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Footballers' trial over teen call girl adjourned

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Footballers' trial over teen call girl adjourned
Karim Benzema (left) with French team mate Franck Ribery (right) and Zahia Dehar the former call girl at the centre of the scandal. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP / ZahiaOfficiel
09:02 CEST+02:00
French football stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, went on trial on Tuesday, accused of paying to have sex with then underage call-girl Zahia Dehar. The process was adjourned until January, however, on a legal technicality.

The trial of Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema for having sex with an under age prostitute was adjourned shortly after opening on Tuesday pending resolution of a point of law which may result in the charges being dropped.

Lawyers for the two French football stars have challenged the legal basis for the charges against their clients and the judge agreed that they had raised a legitimate issue which will have to be resolved by another court before the trial can continue.

That issue will now be reviewed by a Court of Cassation which can either order the trial to continue or refer the issue to France's Constitutional Council for a ruling.

Each body has a maximum of three months to deliver a ruling and the trial will resume on January 20, 2014, with or without Benzema, Ribery and Ribery's brother-in-law, who is also charged with soliciting a minor for sex.

Five other accused face maximum prison terms of ten years for aggravated pimping.

The ‘Zahia Affair’, as the sex scandal is known in France, revolves around accusations that Ribery, now 30, and Benzema, now 25, paid to have sex with Dehar in 2009 and 2008, when she was between 16 and 17 years old.

Midfielder Ribery admits he had sex with Dehar while striker Benzema has denied any sexual relationship with her.

Ribery has, however, adamantly denied he knew she was a minor at the time or even that she was a prostitute.

In interviews, Dehar has claimed that in 2009, the avowed family man and devout Muslim convert flew her from Paris to Munich “as a birthday present to himself”.

In France, the age for consenting sex is 15. Although paying for sex and being paid for it are not illegal, both parties by law have to be over the age of 18.

The scandal first broke in 2010, when Dehar told police about her encounters with Ribery, who plays for European champions Bayern Munich in Germany, and Benzema, who plays for Real Madrid in Spain.

The judicial inquiry centres on alleged prostitution and pimping at the now infamous Zaman Café on the Champs Elysées in Paris. So far nine men have been charged with related offences, including Ribery’s brother-in-law.

SEE ALSO: ZAHIA DEHAR - FROM CALL GIRL TO FASHION PRINCESS

For her part, Dehar has repeatedly told investigators she lied about her age when working as a call-girl at Zaman Café, and asked that all charges be dropped against both Ribery and Benzema.

In 2011, prosecutors in the case against the footballers, who played in France’s disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign despite calls for their suspension, also asked that the charges against them be dropped.

However, the presiding judge in Tuesday’s trial, André Dando, had insisted that the two have a case to answer.

Ribery and Benzema, neither of whom appeared in court on Tuesday, face a possible three-year prison sentence and fines of €45,000 if convicted.

Since the scandal hit the headlines in France more than three years ago, Dehar, who is known simply as ‘Zahia’ in France, has become a celebrity in her own right.

Recently, she has attempted to shake off the “underage prostitute” tag and reinvent herself as a model, as well as launching her own line of lingerie, with the backing of fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld.

Most recently, it was announced she would be taking over L’Eclaireur in the trendy eighth arrondissement of Paris, this summer, and converting it into a shop selling both women’s lingerie and gourmet pastries.

In 2012 Dehar appeared in ‘Bionic’, a 3-minute movie by Hollywood photographer Greg Williams. “The story of a sex doll who exercises her own free will,” says the tagline.

(Warning: The video contains some explicit scenes)

Zahia Dehar in BIONIC - Short Film by Greg Williams (HD official) from Zahia Officiel on Vimeo.

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