France players Valbuena and Benzema may meet, magistrate rules
PARIS (Reuters) - A magistrate lifted on Thursday a ban on France striker Karim Benzema meeting teammate Mathieu Valbuena, whom he is suspected of trying to blackmail over a sex video, which has meant the two cannot feature on the same team.
The public prosecutor appealed, but dropped an earlier statement that the ban would have to stay in place until the appeal was heard. The magistrate separately upheld a ban on Benzema contacting other people linked to the investigation.
Real Madrid player Benzema, who denies any wrongdoing, has been suspended indefinitely from the France team because of suspicion of involvement in a scam to blackmail Valbuena over a video sex tape.
Being allowed to meet Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Valbuena could, at least in theory, enable the two to play for the same team. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said that Benzema should not play for France before being cleared.
The French national soccer federation (FFF) has indicated that the 27-year-old, who has scored 27 goals in 81 appearances for his country, cannot be called up by the national team until he is convicted or cleared of the alleged offence.
Similar cases in France have dragged on for months and there is no guarantee this investigation will be completed before the country hosts Euro 2016 in June.
(Reporting By Simon Carraud, writing by Alister Doyle, editing by Tom Miles)