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French court upholds fraud verdict on Church of Scientology

French Scientology chied Eric Roux (L) with his lawyer Michel de Guillenchmidt
French Scientology chied Eric Roux (L) with his lawyer Michel de Guillenchmidt Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

France's top appeals court has upheld the conviction of the Church of Scientology for organised fraud. The sect says it will take the case to international jurisdiction.

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The Cour de Cassation, France's highest appeals court, threw out the Scientolgists' appeal against fines of 200,000 euros on its bookshop and 400,000 on its Celebrity Centre in Paris, as well as two-year suspended sentences and 30,000-euro fines on five sect members, including its leader in Paris, Alain Rosenberg.

It agreed with lower courts that the church had targeted emotionally fragile people for financial gain.

But it did cancel damages awarded to a complainant who had dropped out of the case.

The group, which claims that it is being subjected to religious persecution, says it will take the case outside French borders, apparently to the European Court of Human Rights, "where the debate can be conducted on the basis of the law".

"Far from being a violation of the freedom of religion, as this organisation of American origin claims, this decision exposes illicit practices that are highly damaging to the safety of people and property," declared Georges Fenech, an MP for the opposition UMP party.

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