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France

Court urged to shut down Church of Scientology

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-16

French prosecutors have asked a court to shut down the Church of Scientology in France and hand its leaders huge fines and suspended jail sentences for using "fraudulent" tactics to recruit followers. Scientology is considered a sect in France.

French prosecutors have urged a court to shut down the Church of Scientology in France and punish its leaders for using "fraudulent" tactics to woo new followers.
   
Prosecutors Maud Morel-Coujard and Nicolas Baieto called on the court to dismantle the movement's French structures, the Scientology Celebrity Centre and an associated bookshop in Paris, and fine them each two million euros (2.75 million dollars).
   
They also demanded a four-year suspended jail sentence and 150,000 euro fine against the French centre's founder, Alain Rosenberg, and asked the court to deprive him of civic and civil rights for five years.
   
The prosecutors further asked for suspended jail sentences of up to three years and fines of up to 50,000 euros against five other top French Scientology officials.
   
"A whole series of fraudulent manoeuvres were used in the search for new followers," Morel-Coujard told the court.
   
Known for its Hollywood celebrity followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology is in the dock in Paris for the second time in six years, although French courts have prosecuted several individual Scientologists since 1978.
   
The group's French branch has rejected the accusations, insisting that Scientology was a legitimate religion whose members faced persecution.
   
France officially considers Scientology to be a sect.
   
The defence will plead its case on Tuesday and Wednesday and the court will issue a verdict in several weeks' time.

Speaking to FRANCE 24, Agnes Bron of the Church of Scientology in France said the case was “an inquisition that puts freedom of religion in France in peril”.

According to Bron, the demands of the prosecutors “show that the French public prosecution service is essentially totalitarian and is working with pressure groups that want to stifle religious minorities in France”.
 

Date created : 2009-06-16

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