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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 November, 2003, 05:24 GMT
Fans to hold vigils for Jackson
Fans wait for Jackson to return in Las Vegas
Fans, friends and family have all offered Jackson support
Michael Jackson fans are planning candlelit vigils to demonstrate support for the singer, who has been arrested on child abuse charges.

According to fan websites, vigils are scheduled in cities across the US and in 13 other countries on Saturday.

The shows of support come amid suggestions from Jackson's family and supporters that the charges are politically and racially motivated.

Jackson has returned to Las Vegas after being freed on $3m bail.

Fans say the candlelit protest vigils are planned in locations ranging from Lithuania, Dublin and Israel and will take place from 1700 to 1900 Pacific Standard Time (0900-1100 GMT).

"We want the world to know that we stand by Michael Jackson as he goes through these dark times and we are sure the truth will bring us all to the light," MJJforum.com said in a statement.

'V' sign

Other fan sites say they have also planned support events.

Brian Ox, attorney for the Jackson family, on Friday became the latest to cast doubt on the sincerity of prosecutors.

Jackson arrest
Singer Michael Jackson is escorted into Santa Barbara jail
This is what they want to see - him in handcuffs
Jermaine Jackson
"What we have here is we have a prosecutor [district attorney Tom Sneddon] who seems bent on defaming Michael in the press. And really, the whole family is just staggered by this kind of effort," in an interview with news network CNN.

Earlier, brother Jermaine Jackson told CNN his family supported Michael "100%, 1,000%."

After the charges - of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child - were processed by Santa Barbara police, the singer emerged with a defiant "V" sign.

Jackson's spokesman, Stuart Backerman, said in a statement: "Michael said, 'Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.' The truth will win this marathon in court."

On his return to Las Vegas, Mr Jackson drove from the airport to his hotel, and shook hands with fans while his vehicle was stuck in traffic.

Mr Jackson's motorcade drove a haphazard, two-hour route to the hotel where he is staying while shooting a TV special.

Some 40 fans had gathered outside the Green Valley Ranch hotel and casino in Henderson to welcome the star, with some carrying placards saying "100% innocent".

He is due to appear in court on 9 January.

'Lynching'

Michael's brother Jermaine told the US news network CNN that the charges were "nothing but a modern-day lynching".

"This is what they want to see - him in handcuffs. You got it. But it won't be for long, I promise you," he said.

Mr Jackson's mother, Catherine, was quoted by German magazine Bunte as saying: "I wonder whether somebody could have set a trap for him and hidden false evidence in his house."

She also reportedly hinted there could be a racist motive behind the charge, saying there were two interpretations of the law in the United States - "one for whites and one for blacks".

Mr Jackson's lawyer, Mark Geragos, dismissed the charges and said Mr Jackson looked forward to appearing in court.

'Outraged'

"He has come back specifically to confront these charges head on. He is greatly outraged by the bringing of the charges. He considers this to be a big lie," Mr Geragos said.

I am so disgusted about how many people are standing up for him. I just can't believe it
Kathy Griffin
Actress and comedian
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson has also expressed "grave concerns" over the way the case is being handled.

He said the search swoop on Mr Jackson's Neverland ranch by up to 70 officers was "overkill".

But some fellow entertainers expressed outrage at Jackson's alleged conduct.

"I have no sympathy, no pity for him," Kathy Griffin, an actress and comedian, was quoted as saying.

"I am so disgusted about how many people are standing up for him. I just can't believe it."

Mr Jackson could face up to eight years in prison for each count of abuse.




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