February 03, 2003 11:00 AM

Monday marked the first day of the trial of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones versus Hello! magazine in London’s High Court, as their lawyer said the star couple was “deeply distressed” when “stolen” photos of their splashy November 2000 wedding appeared in the publication.

Michael Tugendhat, in his remarks inside the courtroom, called the Hollywood couple victims of a conspiracy by Hello! to snatch pictures of the wedding after an offer to buy them was turned down, the Associated Press reports.

Douglas, 58, and Zeta-Jones, 33, are suing Hello! for breach of privacy.

“Anyone would be upset on discovering marriage celebrations — something everyone would wish to be conducted amongst friends in an atmosphere of trust — should be exploited in this way,” Tugendhat told the court.

Hello!’s counter-argument is that the photos were offered on the open market and, therefore, it was entitled to publish them, even if the couple had signed an exclusive deal with rival OK! magazine for the wedding shots.

Hello! hit the streets with its coverage three days before OK! did.

Douglas and Zeta-Jones did not appear in court Monday but expected to give evidence next week.

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