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

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.

Why are Michael Jackson fans suing alleged abuse victims in France?
Michael Jackson's funeral. Photo: AFP

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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SEX

France taken to European Court over divorce ruling that woman had ‘marital duty’ to have sex with husband

A case has been brought against France at the European Court of Human Rights by a woman who lost a divorce case after judges ruled against her because she refused to have sex with her husband.

France taken to European Court over divorce ruling that woman had 'marital duty' to have sex with husband
Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

The woman, who has not been named, has brought the case with the backing of two French feminist groups, arguing that the French court ruling contravened human rights legislation by “interference in private life” and “violation of physical integrity”.

It comes after a ruling in the Appeals Court in Versailles which pronounced a fault divorce in 2019 because of her refusal to have sex with her husband.

READ ALSO The divorce laws in France that foreigners need to be aware of

The court ruled that the facts of the case “established by the admission of the wife, constitute a serious and renewed violation of the duties and obligations of marriage making intolerable the maintenance of a shared life”.

Feminist groups Fondation des femmes (Women’s Foundation) and Collectif féministe contre le viol (Feminist Collective against Rape) have backed her appeal, deploring the fact that French justice “continues to impose the marital duty” and “thus denying the right of women to consent or not to sexual relations”.

“Marriage is not and should not be a sexual servitude,” the joint statement says, pointing out that in 47 percent of the 94,000 recorded rapes and attempted rapes per year, the aggressor is the spouse or ex-spouse of the victim.

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