Benzema edges closer to France return after legal ruling

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The legal restrictions on France and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema over his alleged involvement in a sextape case have been partially lifted but he is still not allowed to contact international teammate Mathieu Valbuena, a judiciary source said Thursday.

The investigating magistrate in the case ruled that the legal constraints can be removed, but prosecutors immediately appealed against the decision, meaning that the ban on the two men contacting each other or meeting remains in place for now.

But if the judge’s decision to lift the restrictions are upheld, it could pave the way for Benzema to return to the national team in time for Euro 2016, which France is hosting.

France kick off the tournament against Romania on June 10.

France coach Didier Deschamps suspended Benzema from the national team after he was placed under formal investigation in November for alleged complicity in a blackmail attempt targeting Valbuena.

“The investigating magistrate decided to partially lift the judicial restriction, in removing the ban on contacting Mathieu Valbuena,” the prosecutors’ office said, but the subsequent appeal means the ban remains in place for now.

Benzema, 28, has continued to play for Real Madrid and started against Roma in the Spanish giants’ 2-0 victory in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League match on Wednesday.

He has denied any wrongdoing but could face a five-year jail term if found guilty.

Benzema is said to have approached Lyon playmaker Valbuena about the tape at a national team training camp in October.

Valbuena has said the sex images were on a mobile telephone that was stolen.

Three men were arrested and held in custody over demands for Valbuena to pay cash to have the tape destroyed, but they were released last week.

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