Michael Jackson fans are suing the two men who made allegations of sexual abuse against the star in the Leaving Neverland documentary which aired earlier this year.
The Michel Jackson Community, the MJ Street and On The Line fan groups accuse Wade Robson and James Safechuck of defamation and “sullying” the singer’s image.
Damages are being sought in Orleans, northern France, where defamation laws differ to those in the US and UK as they extend beyond death.
The fans’ lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, likened Mr Robson’s and Mr Safechuck’s allegations to a “genuine lynching” of Jackson, who died in 2009, aged 50.
They are seeking symbolic damages of one euro (90p) each.
Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck were not in court and have not instructed lawyers to represent them.
Speaking on camera in Leaving Neverland, the two men described in graphic detail how they were befriended by Jackson and allegedly abused from the ages of seven and 10 in the early 1990s.
Jackson was acquitted on charges of molesting a different boy in 2005, and his family has denied the accusations made in the documentary.
However, the programme has led to a backlash against the star’s legacy.
Some radio stations have stopped playing his music, while an episode of The Simpsons cartoon featuring the singer’s voice is being pulled from future broadcasts. Louis Vuitton has also removed Jackson-themed items from its 2019 summer menswear collection.
Mr Ludot, who represented the Michael Jackson Community when the group successfully won nominal damages from the star’s private doctor, Conrad Murray, for his part in Jackson’s death, said he was confident of winning again.
“In France you cannot sully the image of the dead,” he said. “There’s moral and emotional suffering. And when there’s suffering, there’s compensation. It’s very simple.”
Jackson had always denied any allegations that he was involved in abusing underage boys.
The star’s brothers Tito, Marlon and Jackie, and his nephew Taj, have dismissed the allegations made by Mr Robson and Mr Safechuck.
His estate has also criticised Leaving Neverland, describing it as a “tabloid character assassination” that the star had “endured in life and now in death”.
A judgment in France is due in October.
courtesy of Sky News