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Zahia: Charges dropped against Ribéry, Benzema

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Zahia: Charges dropped against Ribéry, Benzema
Charges against Benzema (left) and Ribéry (right) thatthey knowingly had sex with Zahia Dehar when she was underage, were thrown out of court.Photos:AFP
13:54 CET+01:00
A French court has dropped charges against Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema, who were accused of knowingly having sex with an underage prostitute. The pair had faced lengthy prison sentences if convicted, so the decision is good news for French World Cup hopes.

A Paris court on Thursday dropped the case against French footballers Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery, who had been accused of having sex with an underage prostitute.

The court also dropped the case against Ribery's brother-in-law, but handed down sentences ranging from three months suspended to one year plus an extra year suspended to five others accused of pimping.

The decision comes after a prosecutor in Paris had called for the case against French football stars Ribéry and Benzema to be dropped "pure and simple".

Jean-Julien Xavier-Rolai explained to the court in the French capital that it was impossible for the prosecution to prove that the two footballers knew that Zahia Dehar was under the age of 18 when they allegedly paid for sex with her.

Although the age of consent is 15 in France, paying for sex with anyone under 18 is a crime but Dehar, who later gained fame as a lingerie model and designer, had lied about her age.

However, the prosecutor called for five others accused of aggravated pimping in the case to be handed sentences ranging from one year suspended to three years in prison, half of which would be suspended.

News of the investigation into Bayern Munich winger Ribéry, now 30, and Real Madrid striker Benzema, 26, broke just before France's disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign.

Ribéry has admitted having sex with Dehar after she was flown to Munich in 2009 as a "present" for his 26th birthday, but insists he could not have known she was not 18 at the time.

Benzema, who is accused of paying for sex with Dehar in a Paris hotel when she was 16, denies that any encounter took place.

The prosecutor himself admitted that "the very reality" of Benzema's encounter is "doubtful".

The charges against the duo carried possible prison sentences of three years plus a fine of €45,000 ($61,000). But Ribéry and Benzema are now free to concentrate on playing football and can look forward to the World Cup in Brazil in the summer.

Neither Dehar, who rose to fame under the tutelage of fashion impresario Karl Lagerfeld after the charges emerged, Benzema or Ribéry were in attendance at the hearing.  

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