March 28, 2005 08:00 AM

In an hour-long radio interview Sunday with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson said he is a victim of the justice system “because of my celebrity,” and he is “completely innocent” of child-molestation charges against him.

While not able to discuss the specifics of his trial, because of a court-imposed gag order, Michael Jackson did ask his fans to pray for him.

“I just want to say to fans in every corner of the Earth, every nationality, every race, every language, I love you from the bottom of my heart,” the entertainer said near the close of the live Internet broadcast.

“I would love your prayers and your goodwill, and please be patient and be with me and believe in me because I am completely, completely innocent. But please know a lot of conspiracy is going on as we speak,” he said.

Those who, in the past, have been targeted as he has, said Jackson, include South African President Nelson Mandela and former heavyweight boxing champions Muhammad Ali and Jack Johnson.

As for his recent bizarre behavior in court – on March 10, Jackson showed up late for the proceedings and wearing pajamas – he explained: “I was coming out of the shower and I fell and all my body weight – I’m pretty fragile – all my body weight fell against my rib cage. And I bruised my lung very badly.”

He also said he was coughing up blood, leading him to cry in court.

Besides the declaration of his innocence, Jackson, 46, also dispelled the notions that he is broke and withering away. “Please,” he said, “I don’t want anybody to think I’m starving. I’m not. My health is perfect, actually.”

As for his being nearly bankrupt: “That’s not true at all. It’s just one of their many schemes to embarrass me. It’s to drag me through the mud,” he said.

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