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France

French court to rule in Scientology fraud case

Lawyer Olivier Morice acting against the Scientologists at the start of the legal action in 2009
Lawyer Olivier Morice acting against the Scientologists at the start of the legal action in 2009 AFP

France's highest appeals court was due to rule on a fraud conviction against the Church of Scientology Wednesday. The sect is appealing against a ruling against five church members as well as the Paris-based Celebrity Centre and bookstore.

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In February of last year the French branch of the Church of Scientology was found guilty of targeting people for financial gain.

The long-running case was based in large part on the testimony of a woman who claimed she was preyed upon by the organisation when she was “very psychologically fragile”.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

She ended up spending her life savings, over 21,000 euros, on Scientology products

The ruling imposed a crippling 200,000-euro fine on the Paris Celebrity Centre and a 400,000 euro fine on the Scientology bookstore.

Five individuals were also convicted and received suspended two-year prison terms and 30,000-euro fine.

During the appeal hearing in September defence lawyers argued that by ruling against the sect, the court was making a distinction between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad religion’.

The prosecution argued that this is not a religious issue but simple fraud.

Although it is considered a religion in the United States and in other European countries, Scientology is considered a cult in France.

The Church has already indicated that if the appeal is rejected today, it will bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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