French-Algerian football star Karim Benzema has filed a defamation lawsuit against French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. The legal action is in response to Darmanin’s accusations that Benzema has notorious links with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Muslim Islamist group.
This controversy started after Benzema expressed support for the people of Gaza on social media, claiming they were victims of unjust bombardments by Israel.
The fight between Karim Benzema and Darmanin originated in October 2023 when Karim Benzema, playing for Saudi club Al-Ittihad, posted a message on social media expressing solidarity with the inhabitants of Gaza.
Darmanin, a right-wing figure eyeing the French presidency, responded by alleging that Benzema had a notorious link with the Muslim Brotherhood, characterizing the group as a Sunni Muslim Islamist organization with origins in Egypt.
Karim Benzema, represented by lawyer Hugues Vigier, filed a defamation complaint saying that the remarks made by the Interior Minister undermine his honor and reputation.
The footballer denies any association with the Muslim Brotherhood, stating in his complaint that he has never had the slightest link with the organization or anyone claiming membership. Karim Benzema also expressed awareness of being used in political games, concerning the events in Gaza.
Darmanin criticized Benzema for his stance on Gaza but also for his alleged failure to express sympathy for Israelis killed in the Hamas attack on October 7.
The Interior Minister suggested that Benzema’s refusal to sing the national anthem during international matches and his activities on social media amounted to proselytizing.
Karim Benzema’s lawyer, Hugues Vigier, accused Darmanin of political exploitation and claimed that the Interior Minister was sowing division in France.
This points to the implications of the case, where a public figure’s statements about an athlete are seen as not only damaging to the individual but also contributing to political polarization within the country.
Karim Benzema’s defamation complaint has been lodged with the Cour de Justice, the only French court empowered to prosecute government officials for offenses committed while exercising their duties.
The legal process involves a commission that screens complaints before advancing them to an investigation phase. The commission will decide whether to dismiss the case or proceed to trial.
The controversy arose from Benzema’s expression of support for the people of Gaza, condemning what he termed unjust bombardments.
Many players, not just in football but across various sports, have faced backlash and criticism for expressing support for Palestinians and condemning Israel’s actions.
Athletes globally have used their platforms to speak out on social and political issues, making varied reactions from the public, media, and political figures.
The accusations against Benzema involve his alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization founded about 80 years ago in Egypt.
The group has provided the ideological basis for various Islamist organizations, including Hamas. While banned in several countries, it is not restricted in most of the European Union. The classification of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization varies globally.