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EDITIONS
Saturday, 16 November, 2002, 05:21 GMT
Jackson hits back at promoter
Michael Jackson signing autographs
Jackson spends time with fans outside the court
Singer Michael Jackson has appeared to question the honesty of German music publicist Marcel Avram, who is suing him for $21.2m (14m) over the cancellation of the millennium concerts.

Answering questions from the prosecution on the third day of his trial, Mr Jackson said that Mr Avram - who has worked with him since 1972 - was not totally trustworthy.

Michael Jackson
Jackson had to take off his trademark mask once in court
"As a tour promoter I think he does a wonderful job," he said. "But when it comes to finance I don't know if I totally trust him."

Mr Avram contends that the reclusive star pulled out of a deal to perform in Sydney, Australia, and Honolulu over the millennium.

But Mr Jackson said the shows were cancelled by Mr Avram, after the promoter realised they would not be as profitable as he had hoped.

'Unresponsive'

The star claimed ownership of the idea of getting the millennium concerts recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the most-watched performances in history.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson is a long-established star
"It's possible that [Avram] mistakenly thinks he came up with that idea, but I know I came up with it," he said.

Mr Jackson added that Mr Avram was unresponsive to his calls to make the concerts "innovative".

However, Mr Avram's lawyer, Louis Miller, said he had caught Mr Jackson in "more inconsistencies and contradictions than any witness I've ever seen in my 30 years of practising law".

'Unflattering photos'

On Thursday, Mr Jackson arrived late at the Santa Barbara County Superior Court, north of Los Angeles, for "medical reasons".

"Jackson's lawyer is said to have objected to unflattering photos of the star taken by a court photographer on the first day of the hearing," said the BBC's David Willis in Los Angeles.

But the programme also revealed that the judge had summoned a photographer into chambers following the complaint by Mr Jackson's lawyers.

The pictures, taken when Mr Jackson had removed his trademark surgical mask while giving evidence, reveal a rare glimpse of the face of the 44-year-old pop superstar, who is said to have undergone extensive plastic surgery.

The star spent much of Wednesday on the witness stand, being grilled about why he did not appear at the two concerts.

Michael Jackson trial
The audience had won a lottery for seats
Mr Jackson's lawyer told the court that Mr Avram had agreed the singer was to have been paid $15m (9m) for the concerts, but Mr Miller maintained that his client had no motive to cancel them.

The promoter said he tried for six months to reach an amicable agreement with Mr Jackson over the concerts, which had been billed as Michael Jackson and Friends.

They were to feature other performers including Ringo Starr and Mariah Carey.

Mr Jackson's lawyer, Zia Modabber, said Mr Avram postponed the concerts in October 1999, when he met with the singer's representatives.

"He could not live up to the huge promises he made to Mr Jackson," Mr Modabber said.

The court proceedings are being watched by about 30 people who have won a lottery for seats.

The case continues.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Willis
"Hundreds of screaming fans gathered outside the court"

BBC News Online looks at the many faces of singer Michael Jackson, who is currently being sued for $21.2mChanging faces
Photos charting transformation of Michael Jackson
See also:

14 Nov 02 | Entertainment
27 Jun 00 | Entertainment
15 Oct 99 | Entertainment
25 Apr 02 | Entertainment
28 Oct 01 | Entertainment
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
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