The Michael Jackson Community, the MJ Street and On The Line have filed a lawsuit accusing Wade Robson and James Safechuck of “sullying” the reputation of the Bad singer. A court hearing was held in Orleans, just south of Paris, on Thursday.
This comes after a U.S. federal judge denied the Michael Jackson estate’s motion for immediate arbitration at the end of May, giving the premium broadcaster an early win in the U.S. case.
The fan groups are taking action in a French court because French defamation laws are different to those in the U.S. and UK, where libel protection does not extend after death. However, in France, “sullying the image of a deceased person” is a criminal offense. The fan groups are asking for €1 each in symbolic damages.
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Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed has not backed down from the claims in the four-hour documentary, which is built around graphic accounts by Safechuck and Robson, who say they were seduced by Jackson and engaged in years-long sexual relationships with the pop superstar. Safechuck claims the abuse started in the late 1980s when he was 10; Robson says Jackson initiated their sexual relationship in 1990 when he was seven.
Reed said, “It certainly hasn’t cowed either me or HBO. I stand by every second of the film and so does HBO.”
French attorney Emmanuel Ludot who is representing the fan groups in the case against Robson and Safechuck has called the allegations against Jackson “extremely serious” and likened them to “a genuine lynching” of Jackson, who died on 25 June 2009.
The Michael Jackson Estate is supporting the legal action. Co-Executor John Branca said, “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. 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.”
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