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France's Football Federation suspends Benzema indefinitely

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema has been suspended from France's national team. This comes amid a scandal involving an attempt to blackmail one of his France teammates.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet announced on Thursday that he had suspended the star striker indefinitely over his alleged involvement in a sex-tape blackmail attempt against Mathieu Valbuena.

"I have decided, it's a decision from the president of the French federation and not from the executive committee or the ethics committee, that Karim Benzema cannot play for France until the situation evolves," Le Graet said in a news conference in Paris.

"As long as the judicial system has not decided that everything that has been published on Benzema is excessive, the federation will not change its mind," he added.

Le Graet also confirmed that if the charges against Benzema, 27, were not cleared up in time, the Real Madrid striker could be ruled out next summer's European championships, which are to be hosted by France.

Last month, the

Versailles prosecutors' office placed Karim Benzema under formal judicial investigation

on suspicion of "complicity in an attempt to blackmail" and conspiring to commit a criminal act. If convicted, Benzema could face a five-year prison sentence. He has also been placed under judicial supervision, prohibiting him from meeting with the victim or other people charged in the case.

Last week,

Benzema insisted that he was innocent,

telling French broadcaster TFI that he had been a victim of "persecution."

"They are accusing me, they are dragging my name through the mud as if I was a criminal. These are horrible things," he said.

"I spoke with the heart with Mathieu Valbuena. When I heard about blackmail, that we demanded money, it makes me mad ... I don't need money," Benzema added.

Benzema's troubles began in June, when

Valbuena lodged a complaint with police

after receiving a phone call from a man who said he had the sex tape. Four men, including a friend of Benzema, Karim Zenati, are facing charges. Benzema is alleged to have approached Valbuena about the tape while both were at a French national team camp in October.

pfd/ (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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