French court convicts Scientologists of organised fraud
Sydney Morning Herald
October 28, 2009
PARIS: A court yesterday convicted the French branch of the Church of Scientology of organised fraud. The Scientology Celebrity Centre and a related bookshop in Paris were fined a total of €650,000 ($1 million).
The court did not restrict the church's activities in France.
"No one recruited or sold for their own benefit, it was all for the organisation," said Judge Sophie-Helene Chateau. "It is more expedient to punish with a large fine and by alerting future members with widespread publication of the ruling.''
The case stemmed from complaints by two women that the church harassed them to buy products including vitamins and enrol in classes. An investigating judge sent the group to trial against the recommendations of the Paris prosecutor.
Church lawyers said they would study the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.
Alain Rosenberg, the church's leader in France, was given a two-year suspended jail sentence and a €30,000 fine. The court said the sentence was suspended in part because of "efforts by the association to change its practices".
In 2002, a French court fined the church for violating data protection rules.
Yesterday's decision was the "first time in France Scientology has been condemned as a legal entity", said Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the complainants. "The organisation now knows it is being watched."
Last year, a German court authorised monitoring of the group, saying it "wants to establish a society which disregards central constitutional guarantees like human dignity and equality".
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