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Benzema and Ribery trial begins

The hearing into allegations that Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema knowingly had relationships with an underage prostitute began in Paris on Monday.

Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery: Key duo for France
Neither Ribery nor Benzema will be present in Paris.

Neither Ribery, 30, nor Benzema, 26, are expected to appear before the court in the French capital, where they face charges along with a number of other defendants including the two managers of the Parisian club where they are alleged to have met Zahia Defar.

The France duo could face three years in prison and fines of 45,000 euros if they are convicted.

"It's not a lack of respect for the justice system," Le Parisien reported Ribery's lawyer, Carlo Alberto Brusa, as saying in explanation of the Bayern Munich midfielder's absence. "We're in a case where we are going to ask for it to be dropped and there is no complainant."

Defar, who now runs a lingerie company, has always argued that she lied about her age. She is not expected to be present in court, having waived her right to make a case against the players.

In June, the trial was adjourned until this month for procedural reasons. The case had been brought to the attention of police by an anonymous tip-off in September 2009.

Ribery and Benzema allegedly met Defar in a Champs-Elysees nightclub before engaging in sexual relations with her when she was under 18.

Ribery has admitted flying Defar to the Bavarian city and having sex with her in April 2009, but maintains the €700 he paid covered transport, hotel and food costs. Last year, he failed to halt the publication of a book about his alleged relationship with her.

Benzema is alleged to have taken Defar back to his hotel and slept with her for €500 following the French Union of Professional Footballers' (UNFP) awards dinner in Paris in May 2008. He denies having any sexual relations with her.

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