Spanish soccer star Karim Benzema received a sentence on Tuesday in a Paris court that effectively amounted to a ban on playing for France. The 31-year-old was convicted of complicity in the dissemination of a 2015 sex tape involving former French teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema pleaded guilty to the charge last year, but an appeal by the Paris prosecutors’ office led to a retrial, which will begin next week.
Fellow French soccer player Samuel Umtiti was also found guilty. Valbuena, his teammate at Lyon, was not among the four co-defendants in the case. He said that the trial had effectively “sullied” the reputation of French soccer and that he had felt “trapped” in a legal nightmare for two years.
Messages seeking comment were left for Benzema’s legal representatives.
French prosecutors said Benzema lied about his role in disseminating the video to dissuade a friend from providing the actor with details about the Internet publication of the video.
French people, combined with international football fans around the world, followed Benzema’s case avidly. Throughout his two-year prosecution, Benzema maintained his innocence and denounced the so-called “fake-rape” case as a travesty of justice intended to cast doubt on his character and act as a “distraction” from soccer.
Critics deemed it a convenient way to embarrass a high-profile player. And French prosecutors found that the former player had used “subterfuge and lies” to dupe a friend.
Judge Marie-Ange-Helene Saurel, in a ruling released on Tuesday, said she was convinced by Benzema’s lack of contrition in the case. The Frenchman, however, was required to pay 75,000 euros ($88,000) in damages.
French media reported that both Benzema and Valbuena will be allowed to play for France. But this ruling carries heavy consequences for France’s soccer players, who are expected to be scrutinized closely by prospective coaching and management positions.
By The Guardian, Daily Mail