French striker Karim Benzema, under investigation for his alleged role in a sex-tape blackmail scandal, will be available for selection for his country’s Euro 2016 squad after a court Friday lifted legal restrictions against him.
Real Madrid player Benzema was placed under formal investigation in November over allegations he acted as a go-between in an attempt to extort money from fellow France international Mathieu Valbuena by threatening to release a sex tape featuring the player.
As part of the restrictions placed on Benzema while the investigation was carried out, the 28-year-old was forbidden from coming into contact with Valbuena, meaning they would not be able to play in the France team together and effectively ruling Benzema out of selection for the Euro 2016 tournament being held in France.
But an appeals court in Versailles, near Paris, on Friday "upheld the decision of the investigating magistrate that allows Karim Benzema to come into contact with Mathieu Valbuena", lawyer Olivier Combe said.
Valbuena has said the sex images at the centre of the blackmail attempt were on a mobile telephone that was stolen.
Benzema is alleged to have approached Valbuena at a national training camp on October 5 to encourage him to speak to the blackmailers, one of whom was a close childhood friend.
Valbuena has said that Benzema "indirectly" urged him to pay.
Benzema, though, has said he is “not guilty” of the allegations and “never, ever discussed money” with Valbuena.
Three men have been detained after demanding cash to have the tape destroyed.
While Friday’s court ruling makes Benzema technically available for selection for coach Didier Deschamps’s Euro 2016 squad, he is still the subject of an indefinite suspension from the national team imposed by the French Football Federation in December.
“Karim Benzema will not be selected until the situation changes, until there is something new in the case," federation president Noel Le Graet said at the time.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2016-03-11