French footballer Karim Benzema is suing a far-right politician for associating the Real Madrid super-star with Islamic extremism, according to Le Parisien. The French daily reported last week that Benzema has filed a lawsuit against Damien Rieu, a member of the French far-right party Reconquête. The leader of the party, Eric Zemmour, who stood as a staunch anti-Muslim candidate lost in the recent French election.
Rieu published two tweets in 2020 which portrayed Benzema as a terrorist and suggested that the 34-year-old striker held extremist views. In one of the tweets, Rieu posted a photo of Benzema with Nourdine Mamoune, an imam in the French town of Meaux, east of Paris.
"Interesting to discover @benzema visits Imam Nourdine Mamoune, [whose home] has just been raided," Rieu said on 23 October 2020. Just hours before Rieu's tweet, Mamoune's home had been raided by French police, a few days after French schoolteacher Samuel Paty was executed by a Daesh sympathiser. The police however took no further action against Mamoune after the raids, Le Parisien reported.
A month later, on 22 November 2020, Rieu again appeared to have smeared Benzema on Twitter with a photo of the player with his index finger in the air – an expression of faith in Islam – placed alongside images of what appear to be Daesh fighters making the same gesture. "I think @benzema wants to send us a message," Rieu's tweet read.
— Damien Rieu (@DamienRieu) November 22, 2020
Benzema's lawyers slammed the tweet and accused Rieu of fuelling hatred and, according to the French media legal representatives of the French striker, have since brought the case to court and filed a public defamation case. Rieu has been summoned to appear on 23 May to the court of Lyon (Rhône) in order to be indicted, Le Parisien reported.
Rieu has since tweeted a number of times about the libel case and in one of his tweets he posted the summons gloating: "Karim wants me to shut up… Tell him that I won all my trials."