French football star Karim Benzema has filed a defamation lawsuit against France’s interior minister for accusing him of having links with the Muslim Brotherhood, local media reports.
Gérald Darmanin said in October that Mr Benzema “has a notorious link” with the Sunni Muslim Islamist group.
The comment “undermines” his honour and reputation, Mr Benzema’s lawyer said.
The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in several countries, including Egypt, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
Mr Darmanin’s comment in October came after the player tweeted his support for the people of Gaza as “victims again of unjust bombardments which spare neither women nor children”.
Noting his failure to express similar sympathy for the estimated 1,300 Israeli victims that Hamas killed on 7 October, Mr Darmanin said the former French striker was “well-known for his links with the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“We are fighting the hydra that is the Muslim Brotherhood, because it creates an atmosphere of jihadism,” the politician told conservative TV channel CNews.
Karim Benzema, 36, who plays in Saudi Arabia and is a Muslim, quickly issued a denial and threatened legal action against the minister for slander.
In his 92-page complaint, reported widely in French media on Tuesday, he 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”.
The former Real Madrid star 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.”
His lawyer Hugues Vigier told French outlet RTL that the footballer is the victim of “political exploitation” and accused the interior minister of “sowing division in France”.
Mr Darmanin is yet to comment on the complaint.
He has previously targeted Karim Benzema for other reasons, including his refusal to sing the French national anthem and his “proselytising on social networks”.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded about 80 years ago in Egypt. It has provided the rationale for many modern-day Islamist organisations, including Hamas.
Primarily an ideological movement with no formal structure, and while it is banned in many countries, it is not restricted in most of the European Union.
The group’s influence in Europe is mainly seen via front organisations which campaign for Islamic causes like the right of women to wear head-coverings.