Scientologists convicted of fraud

A French court has convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud, but stopped short of banning the group from operating in France.

Two branches of the group's French operations and its leader in France have been fined, reports say.

The case came after complaints from two women, one of whom said she was pressured into paying more than 20,000 euros (£18,100) for expensive products.

France regards Scientology as a sect, not a religion.

Prosecutors had asked for the group's French operations to be dissolved and more heavily fined, but a legal loophole prevented the court from taking these extra measures.

'Commercial operation'

Instead, a judge ordered the Church's Celebrity Centre and a bookshop to pay a 600,000 euro fine.

Alain Rosenberg, the group's head in France, was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence and fined 30,000 euros, the report said.

Other leading members of the group were also fined.

Unlike the US, France has always refused to recognise Scientology as a religion, arguing that it is a purely commercial operation designed to make as much money as it can at the expense of often vulnerable victims, the BBC's Emma Jane Kirby reports from Paris.

Over the past 10 years, France has taken several individual members of the group to court on charges of fraud and misleading publicity, but this is the first time the organisation itself has been charged, she says.

In the case leading up to Tuesday's ruling, the Church denied that any mental manipulation took place.

A lawyer defending Scientology's operations in France said there would be an appeal.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, and includes Hollywood stars such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/8327569.stm

Published: 2009/10/27 11:15:16 GMT

© BBC MMIX

 

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