France is getting ready for one of the biggest court cases seen in the country for years on Tuesday, as footballers Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema stand trial in the Zahia Dehar prostitution case.
The Bayern Munich and Real Madrid stars are charged with having underage sex with a minor. If they’re found guilty, the dup could face a maximum of three years in prison and a 450,000-euro fine.
Few believe it will get that far.
According to the facts known before the trial commences, the witness, Zahia Dehar, has already provided the footballers with an alibi having told investigators that she had lied about her age to Benzema (in 2008) and Ribery (in 2009). Zahia admitted she told the French internationals she was over 18 years old, and many predict that will save the athletes from jail time.
Even if Ribéry and Benzema get off scott-free though, the trial is set to have wide reaching implications on French society.
As reported by Angelique Chrisafis in the Guardian last Friday, the case “promises to reveal the excesses of the Paris party scene, where young women were seen as available for hire through the right contacts, gravitating around the edges of the French reality TV scene.”
Neither Ribéry, Benzema nor Zahia are expected to attend the trail in person, while the footballers have received support from various high-profile soccer names in the past few days.
Last week French manager Didier Deschamps told reporters:
This belongs to the private sphere. It’s in the hands of justice. This matter won’t change my demands on the players for their behaviour in the team.
Ribery has also received further words of support from Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer:
Of course we are concerned with the court case, you cannot ignore such a topic. We have a responsibility towards the player, we are on his side, and he will receive the total support from us.
The court has scheduled four days for the case on the 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th of June.
A French cartoon ahead the trial, with Ribery claiming (in broken French, because he is viewed as dumb) that he only had sex with Zahia Dehar according to the terms of his football contract, can be seen below.