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Last Updated: Monday, 31 January, 2005, 01:26 GMT
Jackson plea on eve of abuse case
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson said he was going through a "nightmare"
Michael Jackson has made an impassioned plea for a fair hearing on the eve of his trial for child abuse.

The pop icon said he would be "acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told", in a statement made on his website.

Mr Jackson, 46, has denied 10 counts of child molestation and conspiracy.

An initial 750 prospective jurors are to be screened starting on Monday, in the first stage of the long-awaited trial that could last up to six months.

Correspondents say it will be a challenge to find 12 jurors and eight alternates able to serve on such a potentially long case and who have not prejudged the trial.

Jury selection could take a month or longer.

Meanwhile more than 1,000 journalists have applied for accreditation in the California town of Santa Maria, where the trial is being held.

A line of reporters and technicians filed around the court building, some waiting for up to two hours.

Fans also plan to gather at the court to proclaim their hero's innocence.

If convicted, the father-of-three faces a long jail term.

'Disgusting and false'

In a brief video statement the singer condemned recent media leaks in his case as "disgusting and false".

Michael Jackson
I have great faith in our justice system... [and] deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen
Michael Jackson

Mr Jackson said he allowed the alleged victim into his Neverland Ranch only after the boy's family said he was battling cancer and needed help.

The events have caused "a nightmare", he said.

"I have great faith in our justice system... [and] deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen," he added.

Details of grand jury testimony were leaked earlier this month to US media despite the efforts of Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville to keep the transcript secret.

The case has attracted widespread media attention and dozens of news organisations from around the world have applied for seats at the trial.

Pre-trial clashes

The indictment stems from accusations made by a now 15-year-old boy.

Charges were brought in December 2003 after police raided Mr Jackson's ranch.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Jackson of plying the boy with alcohol to seduce him.

Mr Jackson's team has dismissed the allegations as a "big lie" concocted by the accuser's family, which they claim is driven by greed.

Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir has asked not to give evidence at the trial

Lawyers on both sides have since clashed during a series of pre-trial hearings.

Judge Melville ruled on Friday that Mr Jackson's accuser and his brother will have to testify in open court, rejecting a prosecution attempt to close the courtroom to the press and public for that portion of the trial.

He also ruled that Martin Bashir's documentary Living With Michael Jackson will be shown to jurors - and refused to excuse the journalist from standing as a witness in the trial.

The judge has rejected a previous bid by defence lawyers to have chief prosecutor Tom Sneddon thrown off the case for what they claimed was "personal animosity" towards the singer.

Mr Jackson faced charges of child molestation in the mid-1990s, but settled the case out of court in a multimillion dollar deal.




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