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Court drops sex charge

Saturday, February 01, 2014

PARIS - Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema have been acquitted on charges of soliciting an underage prostitute.

The French judge ruled there wasn't enough proof the men were aware that self-described escort Zahia Dehar, now 21, was a minor at the time.

The two footballers, who didn't attend the trial, had faced up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Dehar contends Ribery flew her to Munich as a birthday present to himself in 2009 when she was under 18. She says she lied to the players and told them she was an adult. Dehar was also not present at the trial.

Although Ribery has admitted to having sex with Dehar, he claims he did not pay her and that he did not know she was a prostitute or a minor at the time.

Benzema has denied all the allegations. The 26-year-old Benzema is alleged to have paid $US678 ($F1304) to have sex with Dehar in May 2008, the night he won the French Player of the Year award playing for his former club, Lyon. Dehar was 16 at the time.

Prostitution is legal in France, but prostitutes must be over 18. The case has been hanging over the players since July 2010, when a French judge issued preliminary charges against them.

Ribery arguably had the best season of his career in 2012-13, helping Bayern win the Bundesliga and Champions League. He finished third in the recent Ballon d'Or vote behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Last weekend, Benzema scored his 100th club goal for Madrid.

Dehar, in her new capacity as fashion designer, attended the Versace haute couture fashion show in Paris on Sunday.

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