Scientologists appeal fraud charges in Paris court
The court appeal by key members of the Paris branch of the Church of Scientology, sentenced in 2009 after being found guilty of fraud, opened in Paris on Thursday.
In 2009 the two principal institutions of the Scientology movement in France, the so-called Celebrity Centre and the SEL bookshop, were fined 400,000 and 200,000 respectively, but allowed to continue with their activities.
They launched an appeal, along with the unofficial leader of the Scientology movement in Paris, Alain Rosenberg, who was given a two year suspended prison sentence and a 30,000 euro fine in 2009.
Other members of the movement were given fines ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 euros.
Lawyers for the Church of Scientology denied that they were using delaying tactics by raising questions of constitutionality, which if accepted by the court, would lead to the postponement of the trial.
Olivier Morice, lawyer for Unadfi, an organisation which campaigns against sects, said he wants to the trial to include evidence about the methods and techniques of the Scientology movement, which, he said, are those of organised fraud.
“For us, Scientology is a business, whose main goal is to elicit money from its followers,” he told reporters outside the court.
But Eric Roux, a spokesman for the Scientologists, said he hoped the trial would “bring out the truth in this matter, which was judged in a scandalous manner the first time”.
Scientology was founded in 1954 by the American science fiction writer Ron Hubbard.
It is classed as a religion in the United States, but following a 1995 report by French parliamentarians in France it is categorised as a sect.
There are 12 million Scientologists worldwide, including 45,000 in France.