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From Stockholm to Mideast, fans cheer outcome

LONDON -- Fans and friends of Michael Jackson rejoiced yesterday after a jury acquitted the pop star of child molestation charges in a trial that has captivated the world.

The not guilty verdicts were carried live across television screens from California to Croatia.

''I can't believe it. I'm just so pleased I'm lost for words!" said Uri Geller, Jackson's psychic friend in Britain. ''I'm trembling, this is so important. He did not let down his fans and all the people that love him."

Jackson was found not guilty of molesting a 13-year-old, giving him alcohol, and conspiring to imprison his accuser and the youth's family at his estate.

''He went through hell, and now the nightmare is over," Geller said.

As the jury indicated they had reached a decision yesterday, British news channels streamed live coverage of the scene outside the court in Santa Maria, Calif.

Interest stretched to the Middle East, with the Arab news channels al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya cutting to live footage as Jackson arrived at the courthouse for the verdicts.

''The minutes before the verdict were the most nervous moments of my life. Now, these are the happiest moments of my life," said Kent Vilhemsson, 21, watching from Skovde, Sweden.

In Germany, several news channels carried the coverage live, and the top-selling Bild newspaper quickly posted the headline ''Acquittal!" on its website.

Martin Stock, the founder of a 40-member Jackson fan club in Germany who stayed up to watch the outcome, said he was overjoyed and had expected his idol's acquittal.

''The whole trial was laughable and Michael was treated inhumanly. I think people were trying to throw him into prison to get at his money," Stock said.

Some viewers were old fans but jaded by the chain of events.

''I was a tremendous fan of Michael Jackson," said Valdeci Pereira, an evangelist preacher in Rio de Janeiro's Dona Marta shantytown, where Jackson filmed a video in 1996. ''The magic is forgotten. People will never listen to his music the same way again."

In Romania, where Jackson is widely popular after staging two huge concerts in 1992 and 1996 and donating a playground to an orphanage in Bucharest, fans were elated.

''It couldn't have been a better verdict, although it was the only verdict they could have come up with," said Alexandru Ciocodeica.

While some were shocked by the case, the verdicts came as no surprise.

The Romanian pop star Loredana Groza said, ''I expected him to be declared innocent; America defends its idols."

Emilia Janebris, 25, watched the coverage live on television at a friend's apartment in Stockholm.

''I think I'm dying, I'm so happy," she said, crying uncontrollably.

Ben Jack'son, a 30-year-old Jackson impersonator who lives in Paris, said he was delighted and relieved. Jack'son, who declined to give his real name, said demand for his shows has fallen by about half since the start of the trial.

''At last, at last he is rehabilitated in the eyes of the world!" he exclaimed. ''Everybody thinks he can buy everything with his money, but this victory couldn't be bought with money."

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