By Marcus Lee, CNN • Updated 23rd November 2011
Kylian Mbappe (left) and Karim Benzema. Credit: Getty Images
French football star Karim Benzema will serve 10 months of a five-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of complicity in attempted blackmail with the intent to cause financial harm in a sex tape case.
The Real Madrid striker had been accused of helping former teammate Mathieu Valbuena who in May 2010 reported to police the publication of “fake sex tapes” made with him, senior prosecutor Luc Poignant told France Info radio.
Benzema was also accused of complicity in defamation — but on Friday the 29-year-old was cleared of this charge.
He had denied all charges.
“I am a professional footballer. I do not use my professional status as a means to get around the law,” Benzema said in court after he was found guilty, according to the BBC.
“I want to be understood. I will not talk of matters that I cannot discuss,” he added.
Benzema will have to serve two months of the five-year sentence in a preventive prison before being released.
“The prosecutors in this case in France have a strong habit of saying you are guilty even before a trial. Their method means that there is a strong element of guilt even before the trial,” Karl von Bismarck, a French human rights lawyer, told CNN.
Former Real Madrid teammate Mathieu Valbuena, left, arrives at the courthouse in the northern port city of Lille. Credit: AP
A hearing on Benzema’s appeal is due to take place on December 28.
Valbuena, now a France international, had also been accused of complicity in the same case, but denied the charge, he said.
Von Bismarck said: “It was more than just a bad idea from the start. The conspiracy had been present and planted from the start, but the prosecutors did not see it.”
Karim Benzema during his court appearance in Lille on Monday. Credit: AP
According to the BBC, Benzema’s defense had said he could have foreseen that Valbuena might be targeted.
Von Bismarck said Benzema’s decision to breach confidentiality surrounding the blackmail case by publicly commenting in favor of Valbuena could have been at least one factor in his conviction.
In a post on the BBC’s French website on Sunday, he said: “He raised the subject of Valbuena because it was Valbuena who was implicated. Perhaps he thought, ‘I cannot help him’.”
“They both belong to a clique at Real Madrid who have long needed to manage these tensions. It takes everything: a good past, a charming professional image, fear of public criticism. From time to time they wake up on the side of liberty because they have an aversion for the use of force.”