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Why are Michael Jackson fans suing alleged abuse victims in France?

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Why are Michael Jackson fans suing alleged abuse victims in France?
Michael Jackson's funeral. Photo: AFP
11:06 CEST+02:00
Michael Jackson fan clubs are set to sue two alleged child abuse victims of Michael Jackson in a French court this week over their claims in the recent HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.

Thursday's hearing will take place at a court in the northern city of Orleans where the Michael Jackson Community, the MJ Street and On The Line groups will begin proceedings against the men they accuse of sullying the image of the late singer. 

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Lawyer Emmanuel Ludot, right. Photo: AFP

The four-hour documentary broadcast on US channel HBO focuses on testimony by James Safechuck, 41, and Wade Robson, 36, who recount separate but consistent accounts of how their idol molested them as boys at his Neverland Ranch in California.

The documentary has no connection to France, and the alleged abuse took place in the USA, but the fans groups are taking the action in a French court because of French laws on defamation.

In the UK and the US, libel protection does not extend after death, meaning that it is impossible to libel a dead person.

In France, however, sullying the image of a dead person is a criminal offence

The French lawyer acting for the fan groups, Emmanuel Ludot, called the allegations "extremely serious" and likened them to "a genuine lynching" of Jackson, who died in 2009. 

The fan clubs are seeking symbolic damages of €1 each.

Ludot had previously successfully sued Jackson's doctor Conrad Murray for causing distress to his fans by giving the US pop legend the drugs that killed him.

Five Jackson fans won symbolic damages of €1 each in 2014 after the court in Orleans agreed they had suffered "emotional damage" from the pop star's death, but the ruling was seen as legally dubious by experts.

A number of radio stations,  from Australia to Canada have stopped playing Jackson's music after the HBO documentary was aired, and the creators of The Simpsons also shelved one of the animated series' classic episodes because it featured Jackson's voice. 

Jackson died in 2009 aged 50 from an overdose of the anaesthetic propofol while under Murray's care, as the "King of Pop" rehearsed in Los Angeles for a series of comeback concerts in London.

 
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