Paris: Karim Benzema on Tuesday filed a complaint for defamation against French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who last year said the former Real Madrid star had "notorious" links with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Darmanin, a tough-talking right-winger with designs on the French presidency, criticised Benzema after the former France striker and 2022 Ballon d'Or winner posted on X (formerly Twitter) in mid-October in support of the inhabitants of Gaza, who, he claimed, were victims of "unjust bombardments" carried out by Israel in retaliation for the bloody Hamas attack of October 7.
Darmanin reacted to Benzema's post by alleging that the player "has a notorious link with the Muslim Brotherhood", a Sunni Muslim Islamist group with its origins in Egypt.
Benzema's complaint, lodged by lawyer Hugues Vigier, and seen by AFP, says these remarks "undermine" the player's honour and reputation.
In his complaint, Benzema, who plays for Saudi club Al-Ittihad and is a Muslim, says he "has never had the slightest link with the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, nor to (his) knowledge with anyone who claims to be a member of it".
He added: "I am aware of the extent to which, because of my notoriety, I am being used in political games, which are all the more scandalous given that the dramatic events since October 7 deserve something quite different from this type of statement."
In October, Darmanin said he had "nothing against" Benzema, but that it was "astonishing" that the footballer had not tweeted in support of the Israelis killed in the Hamas attack, or the French teacher stabbed to death by an Islamist former pupil earlier this month.
"I publicly called for him to tweet for that teacher who for absolutely nothing, is dead because of Islamist terrorism, and he didn't do it," the minister later said on a visit to Abu Dhabi.
Darmanin also referred to Benzema's refusal to sing the national anthem when playing for France, and his "proselytising on social networks".
The complaint has been lodged with the Cour de justice, the only French court empowered to prosecute members of the government for offences committed while exercising their duties.