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Friday, September 07, 2007

Prosecutors have charged twelve members of the Church of Scientology in Belgium

After a ten-year investigation, Belgium prosecutors have charged twelve members of the Church of Scientology. The accusations include fraud, extortion, illegal practice of medicine, and infringement of privacy law, among others. The decision opens the way for Scientology to be considered a criminal organization.

The group, which is based in Los Angeles, teaches that the human mind can control the
A Scientology center in the Belgium capital Brussels. Photo (c) MBrus
physical world through mental training. It has several high-profile celebrity members who laud its teachings, as well as former members that describe Scientology as a vicious cult.

Henre de Cordes is chairman of the Information and Advice Centre on Harmful Sectarian Organizations in Belgium. He says the investigation showed some of the allegedly illegal activities undertaken by individuals.

"In the police raids during the investigation of 1999, they found lots of personal files on the followers of Scientology, which led to the charge of infringement of privacy law."

Grey area
While the organization itself is implicated in the prosecutor's decision, it may not mean the end of Scientology in Belgium. De Cordes thinks the Church will adapt and survive after the charges.

"It would probably lead to the end of the structure which is present right now in Belgium. If a new structure is being organized by other people than those charged in this criminal case, a new group could continue the activity of Scientology."Scientology exists in a grey area. Governments have defined it as either a religious organization or commercial enterprise. De Cordes thinks the Belgian decision, as with any attempt to ban the group, will probably be contested in court.

"They would argue that freedom of religion has not been respected. After this Belgian decision there could also be a decision at the level of the human rights court of Strasbourg."

Mixed European success

The Scientologists have had mixed success in Europe. In April, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Russia, which had refused to acknowledge the Scientology branch in Moscow.

While in Germany, crews working on a movie starring Scientology follower Tom Cruise were banned from filming at military sites due to the actor's membership in the group.

1 comment:

GuruTruth said...

Quite exciting news indeed. The lawsuit will probably play out over years, but it will be interesting to follow. I sure wish I spoke more European based languages ...

Nice blog you've got here,