Trial hears Glitter deny abusing two young girls

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The disgraced rock star Gary Glitter has denied committing obscene acts with two young girls at his trial in a Vietnamese court.

Glitter, real name Paul Gadd, 61, heard more than six hours of testimony on the first day of his trial in the resort town of Vung Tau, southern Vietnam. He faces up to seven years in jail if found guilty.

He is alleged to have fondled and kissed the girls, then aged 11 and 12, as well as other physical acts at a beach house he had rented.

Dozens of onlookers crowded at the gates of the courthouse as an armoured police van drove up. Glitter, who was wearing sunglasses, black trousers, shirt and cap, made a two-fingered victory sign and said only one word, "Innocent", as police escorted him through a group of reporters into the yellow concrete courthouse in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

Glitter had been held at Phuoc Co prison outside Vung Tau since his arrest in November. The trial is initially behind closed doors because it involves minors. A verdict is expected today.

He was escorted out of the court for a lunch-break and reporters shouted, "Are the girls lying?" and "Did you plead innocent", to which he nodded twice.

At the end of the day's testimony, Glitter was led out, smiling but refusing to make any comment.

His lawyer Le Thanh Kinh, said prosecutors had recommended Glitter be sentenced to three to four years in prison and then deported. Prosecutors say they have evidence that Glitter molested the two girls several times at the villa, he moved into last spring. But Mr Kinh said: "He doesn't agree with the accusations. He said he's innocent. He said nothing happened."

Glitter says he was teaching the girls English and considered them "like his grandchildren".

Last November, he was seized in Ho Chi Minh City while trying to board a flight out of the country. Police confiscated his laptop, which contained hundreds of pornographic images.

During the investigation, police had considered whether to charge Glitter with child rape, which carries a maximum penalty of death but said they did not find enough evidence.

The girls' families wrote to the court in December, asking that charges be dropped after Glitter paid $2,000 (£1,140) to each of them. Although prosecutors decided to bring charges anyway, under Vietnam's legal system the payments are considered "compensation" that counts towards a lesser sentence.

Vung Tau, about 80 miles south-east of Ho Chi Minh City, has drawn intense attention from international media. More than 50 foreign journalists have arrived to cover the trial.

Glitter, who had a string of hits in the 1970s, including "I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am)" and "Do You Wanna Touch Me", is perhaps best known for his rock anthem "Rock and Roll (Part 2)," which is still played at sporting events.

He fell from grace in Britain in 1999 when he was convicted of possessing child pornography. He had taken his computer for repair and it was found to contain indecent images.

He served half of a four-month jail term. He went to Cambodia and, in 2002, was expelled but officials did not specify any crime.

The trial continues.