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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 08:45 GMT
Actress Taylor defends Jackson
Elizabeth Taylor
Taylor said Mr Jackson would be "vindicated"
Elizabeth Taylor has defended her friend Michael Jackson, saying the pop star is "absolutely innocent" of child abuse charges.

Mr Jackson was booked this week over allegations he abused a 12-year-old boy.

The actress, who was an icon in the 1960s, also attacked the press over how they had portrayed the singer.

"Their whole reaction is that he is guilty. I thought the law was 'innocent until proven guilty'," she said, adding that Mr Jackson would be "vindicated".

It was the first comment from Taylor, a longtime friend of the star, since his Neverland ranch in California was searched by some 60 officers on Tuesday.

Media interest in the superstar performer has been intense.

Fans around the world hold vigils to support Michael Jackson

He was booked over allegations of sexual abuse on Thursday in Santa Barbara in California, and freed on $3m (1.87m) bail. He is due to appear back in court in January.

Fans of Mr Jackson held vigils around the world on Saturday, but they attracted few supporters. In New York a total of only 30 loyal fans turned out to vigils in Times Square.

They wore Michael Jackson T-shirts and carried placards with the slogans "Michael is innocent" and "It's the press who are scum", reported news agency AFP.

And in London's Leicester Square about 30 fans braved the rain to chant their support, many of whom have met the star.

Austrian fan Martina Wohlesser, 25, said she had just arrived in London from Las Vegas where she was following the singer.

'Too far'

She said she had the feeling Jackson knew something was about to happen because he was "very quiet and serious".

Michael Jackson fans
Fans chanted and waved banners in London's Leicester Square
Defending her hero, she said: "I think this is really, seriously, going too far because he doesn't deserve this.

"Why would he be so stupid and go on TV and admit he slept in the same room as children if he was guilty?"

In Paris, fans gathered on the Champs Elysees and walked to the Arc de Triomphe.

Holding candles, they sang We Are the World, the 1985 African famine relief hit written by Mr Jackson and Lionel Richie.

But the strength of feeling was not reflected in turnout - only 60 fans attended.

The vigils met with a similar response in other cities, with only six fans attending in Montreal, Canada, and handfuls in Rome and Toronto.

Michael Jackson gives a 'V' sign
Jackson has responded to the charges with defiance
An event on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles - in Jackson's home state of California - attracted 25 fans.

Like many of Jackson's family and friends, fans expressed suspicions that prosecutors were motivated by malice.

"There is an interest to see him fall as a man and as an artist," said Fabrizio Basili, a 30-year-old man from Rome who wore a black shirt bearing the image of Jackson's face.

"His album Number Ones came out with some of his great hits, and the same day the accusations came and this is why we're suspicious."

Star 'grateful'

Stuart Backerman, a spokesman for the Jackson family, said he had received "hundreds" of supportive emails.

"Michael Jackson has said in the past that his fans are his most precious resource," he said.

"Clearly, the demonstrations around the world reinforce his long-standing feelings for his fans.

"He's grateful."

Jackson's album Number Ones - largely a collection of his biggest hits - topped the UK charts on Sunday.

He releases a single on Monday, an original track called One More Chance.


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