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France stars Ribery and Benzema face charge in prostitution case

August 15, 2012 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Karim Benzema, right, with Franck Ribery during the Euro 2012 match against Sweden in Kiev on June 19.
Karim Benzema, right, with Franck Ribery during the Euro 2012 match against Sweden in Kiev on June 19.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Investigating magistrate says Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema will stand trial
  • Andre Dando tells CNN that the case will be heard "well into 2013"
  • Ribery has admitted sleeping with a prostitute but says he did not know she was underage
  • Both players are regulars in France's national soccer team

(CNN) -- Two of France's most high-profile football stars will face a court trial next year, being charged with allegedly soliciting an underage prostitute, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, who both played for France at the Euro 2012 finals in June, were first questioned two years ago about their alleged involvement in a prostitution ring.

"Some of the defendants will be prosecuted for 'aggravated pimping,' although I cannot disclose which ones at this time," the investigating magistrate Andre Dando told CNN on Tuesday.

"The trial is months away and will be well into 2013, I expect."

Ribery plays for German club Bayern Munich, while Benzema is at Real Madrid.

An official from Madrid, which won the Spanish league title last season, said the club could not comment as it had no information about Dando's statement.

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Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere. Spain's soccer team celebrates with the Euro 2012 trophy on a double-decker bus during the victory parade in Madrid on Monday. Spain defeated Italy 4-0 in the final match on Sunday. Euro 2012, bringing together 16 of Europe's best national soccer teams, began June 8 in Poland and Ukraine. Look back at the action and atmosphere.
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Bayern has yet to respond to CNN's request for a statement.

The case emerged in 2010, before the France team went to the FIFA World Cup tournament, after police raided a nightclub near the Champs Elysees in central Paris and detained 18 girls on suspicion of prostitution.

Ribery's attorney says footballer is innocent

One of the girls, Zahia Dehar, appeared on the cover of "Paris Match" magazine in April that year and in an interview said she had sexual relations with several players on the national team, including Ribery, whom she had met at the club.

She said she hadn't told them she was younger than 18 at the time, although she was 16.

In an initial court hearing on the case, Ribery admitted he had sex with Dehar but insisted he did not know she was a minor.

"He is innocent until proven guilty," said his lawyer Sophie Bottai. "I am sure the investigation will prove that Ribery was never aware of her age."

Ribery allegedly bought a plane ticket for Dehar, but Bottai said he never personally booked it and never saw her passport.

"There is no evidence that he was ever aware of her age," Bottai said. "She told him she was 20 years old."

If found guilty, the players could face a prison term of up to three years, or a fine of €45,000 ($58,390).

Dehar has since become a fashion designer, and launched her own collection this year.

CNN's Alex Felton and Al Goodman contributed to this story.

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