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Henry: Retirement feels 'weird'

France
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Benzema will plead innocence - lawyer

Karim Benzema's lawyer has stated the Real Madrid player's determination to prove his innocence in the face of allegations that he had sex with an underage prostitute.

Neither Benzema, 26, nor fellow France international Franck Ribery, 30, were in court when the hearing into accusations against them began in Paris on Monday.

While Ribery has admitted having sexual relations with Zahia Defar, now 21, in Munich in April 2009, he denies knowing she was underage at the time. Benzema, on the other hand, denies any sexual relationship with Defar, who is alleged to have slept with the Real Madrid striker after a French football awards ceremony in May 2008.

"From the very start, Karim Benzema has explained that nothing happened on May 11, 2008," Benzema's lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, told media outside the courtroom.

"We're going to try and show that's the truth, perhaps even prove it. I'm hoping the case will be dropped. [It should be] dropped pure and simple, not simply on the basis of benefit of the doubt or an allegation. There are inconsistencies and undoubtedly lies in the case against him."

The pair, who face up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro fine each if convicted, were both absent due to commitments with their respective clubs. While Ribery is due to resume the Bundesliga season with Bayern Munich this Friday, Benzema will feature for Madrid in Tuesday's Copa del Rey tie at Espanyol.

"The law states absolutely that you can be represented by your lawyer," Cormier argued. "It's widely practiced, actually. There's no reason there should be an exception on account of his fame. A schedule was worked out for the hearing, and an unforeseen obstacle came up with qualification for the Copa del Rey, which falls right in the middle of this."

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