French Michael Jackson fans sue Leaving Neverland accusers

By: bbc
Michael Jackson fans in France sue his accusers
Michael Jackson

Three Michael Jackson fan clubs in France have launched legal proceedings against the men who accused the late star of abusing them in a documentary.

The claims of James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who both say they were sexually abused by Jackson as children, formed the basis of HBO's Leaving Neverland.

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The Michel Jackson Community, the MJ Street and On the Line groups sued the men in Orleans, northern France.

Unlike the UK and US, French defamation laws extend libel beyond death.

According to Reuters, the court said a judgment would be delivered on 4 October.

In Leaving Neverland, directed by British filmmaker Dan Reed, both Safechuck and Robson say they were befriended by the late singer in the 1990s and were showered with gifts and affection before the sexual abuse began.

Following the documentary, which was broadcast on the M6 channel in France, some radio stations stopped playing his music and fashion brand Louis Vuitton removed Jackson-themed items from its 2019 summer menswear collection.

The fans' lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, said the allegations - broadcast in the UK on Channel 4 - amounted to a "genuine lynching" of Michael Jackson, who died in 2009.

The fan groups are seeking symbolic damages of one euro (90p) each.

In 2014, Mr Ludot represented the Michael Jackson Community when they won nominal damages of one euro from the pop star's private doctor, Conrad Murray, for his part in Jackson's death.

"In France you cannot sully the image of the dead," Mr Ludot said. "There's moral and emotional suffering. And when there's suffering, there's compensation. It's very simple."

The proceedings have been welcomed by Michael Jackson's estate.

In a statement reported in the New York Post, it said it was "in full support of Mr Ludot's efforts on behalf of Michael and his beloved fans in France and across the globe that the truth shall ultimately prevail".

The estate hoped, it said, that "a victory in France will soon fuel a movement in the United States to finally explore changes in the law to afford defamation protection for the deceased".