French duo charged with solicitation
France internationals Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema are set to face trial for allegedly soliciting an underage prostitute.
The duo are set to face the charges along with eight others after judicial papers were submitted by investigating magistrate Andre Dando this week.
According to reports some of the defendants will be prosecuted for "aggravated pimping."
The long-running case began in 2010 when Zahia Dehar claimed Real Madrid striker Benzema paid for sex with her in 2008, when she was 16. Dehar also alleged Ribery flew her to Munich for sex a year later.
Prostitution is not illegal in France, however, it is with persons aged under 18.
Prosecutors requested in November last year that the case against Ribery and Benzema, who have repeatedly denied the charges, be dropped because they were unaware that Dehar was underage.
Dehar, now 20 and who has become a celebrity in France since the story broke, has admitted both players did not know her age at the time of the alleged meetings.
If found guilty Ribery and Benzema could face three years in prison or a £35,000 fine.
Lawyers for both players on Tuesday revealed their confidence that they would beat any charge against their clients.
Benzema's legal counsel, Mr Sylvain Cormier, told Le Parisien: "There is other material in the record to prove the innocence of my client. I feel it pays to be young and famous."
Ribery's adviser, Sophie Bottai, told the same publication that she was surprised that Mr Dando had chosen to begin proceedings given the advice of the prosecutors' office.
"This decision is unjust and also surprising in view of folder contents and submissions of the prosecution," she said. "But I remain confident for the rest of the procedure."
Ribery and Benzema have both been included in France's squad for their friendly against Uruguay in Le Havre tomorrow.
Le Bleus coach Didier Deschamps, who is set to lead the national team for the first time, refused to comment on the matter today.
"I won't be commenting on it as it has a private aspect," Deschamps told reporters. "It's in the court's hands. It will not change my demands about players' behavior on and off the pitch with respect to the French team.
"I am concentrating on the essentials so tomorrow (Wednesday) we see a France team that wants to go forward and wants to win."