French stars Ribery and Benzema face sex case judge

Karim Benzema (L), and Franck Ribery in a training session (14 Aug 2012)
Image caption Ribery (R) and Benzema both deny the allegations

French football stars Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema are to be called before a judge over allegations that they solicited an underage prostitute.

The pair, both due to play for France against Uruguay on Wednesday, were put under investigation two years ago.

They both deny the claims and the girl involved, Zahia Dehar, has said neither player knew she was 16 at the time.

An investigating magistrate has ruled that they should testify but has not yet set a date.

Magistrate Andre Dandot's decision contradicts the recommendation of Paris prosecutors who said in November 2011 that the case should be closed because the players did not realise she was underage.

Six other individuals have also been called before the tribunal and some of them are facing allegations of aggravating pimping.

Under French law, paid sex with someone under the age of 18 can prompt a punishment of three years in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros (£35,000; $55,000). However, the accused has to be aware of the minor's age.

The Zahia affair, as it became known, emerged two years ago as police investigated claims that a Paris nightclub had given access to underage prostitutes. But the allegations date back to 2008 and 2009.

Representing Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, lawyer Sylvain Cormier said his client was innocent "and he will give his explanation before the tribunal".

France coach Didier Deschamps said the matter was in judicial hands and did not affect their role on the football pitch or in the national team.

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