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Ribery and Benzema acquitted on charges of soliciting an underage prostitute

A French court has cleared French international footballers Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema from charges of soliciting sex from underage prostitute. The alleged incidents took place in 2008 and 2009.

A Paris court dropped charges against Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery, 30, and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, 26, on Thursday. Ribery's brother - who had also faced charges - was also acquitted.

Ribery's attorney said his client had gotten "goosebumps" when he heard the news.

"He has an extraordinary character, and he's someone I respect a lot. I think it's a victory, a victory for justice," Ribery's attorney Alberto Brusa said.

"This affair will nevertheless leave behind a little field of ruins," he said, adding that the scandal had hurt "many people."

"We have fought for this acquittal to leave no blemishes. One can make mistakes in life without having anything to do with the courts," Brusa told reporters.

Ribery had admitted to paying for sex with Algerian-born prostitute Zahia Dehar in 2009. However, he had denied prior knowledge of her age, which was 17 at the time. He was alleged to have paid her for sex on three separate occasions.

Benzema, on the other hand, had denied allegations of soliciting sex from the same prostitute the year before.

Neither the two French national players, nor Dehar attended the four-day trial in Paris.

Paying anyone under the age of 18 for sex is an offense punishable in France with up to three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($61,116).

kms/msh (AP, AFP, SID)