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Michael Jackson fans sue alleged victims for defamation after death

Michael Jackson fan clubs file a suit in France using defamation laws that make it an offence to wrongfully sully the image of a dead person.
Michael Jackson fan clubs file a suit in France using defamation laws that make it an offence to wrongfully sully the image of a dead person. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Three Michael Jackson fan clubs took legal action in France on Thursday against two men who accused the legendary singer of sexual abuse in the documentary “Leaving Neverland”. Under French law, the defamation of a dead person is illegal.

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"The image of the departed has been damaged, as well as the community of fans of Michael Jackson," said the complainants’ lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot.

The lawsuit names James Safechuck, 41, and Wade Robson, 36, key figures in the documentary. Both claimed the singer had molested them at his Neverland Ranch home in California. The Michael Jackson Community, MJ Street and On the Line fan clubs brought the suit in France, where it is against the law to defame a dead person.

Jackson died ten years ago.

The HBO two-part documentary on the singer was released in March to critical acclaim and controversy. The film included allegations that the singer had abused a number of boys.

Jackson was the subject of a lawsuit in 2005, when the family of cancer patient Gavin Arvizo accused him of abuse. Arvizo was 13 at the time of the alleged events. Jackson was charged with child molestation and attempted child molestation, intoxicating a minor to molest him, among other charges. He was acquitted.

Jackson was also accused of pedophilia in 1993 by the family of a 13-year-old boy, but he settled out of court with the family.

The two accused did not attend the Thursday proceedings, nor did they send legal representation to the court in Orleans, south of Paris.

That the truth shall prevail

The Jackson family supports the French lawsuit.

"The estate is 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," John Branca, a co-executor of Jackson’s estate, said in a statement.

"We remain hopeful 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," Branca added.

The Orleans court will give its verdict on 9 October if the plaintiffs can provide proof that a summons was delivered to both Safechuck and Robson.

The three fan clubs are seeking one euro each in restitution.

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