Scientology’s lawyers argued today in France’s highest court that they did not get a fair trial on appeal, because when the defendants walked out of the proceedings half-way through, the appeal court did not stop proceedings to get them new lawyers.
France’s top court will hand down its ruling on Scientology’s appeals against convictions for organised fraud next month.
After a hearing today that lasted two and three quarter hours — the reading of the various grounds of appeal alone took up 50 minutes — the Cour de Cassation said it would publish its judgment on October 16.
As well as reiterating some arguments they say were unfairly rejected by the appeal court, the movement’s lawyers opened some new lines of attack.
One in particular related to their dramatic exit half-way through last year’s appeal court hearings.
On February 1, 2012, the defendants and their lawyers walked out of the proceedings after six days of procedural arguments, arguing that they were not getting a fair hearing.
They had filed a number of legal challenges in a bid to get their convictions overturned and in each case the appeal court had rejected their arguments.
As soon as last of nine challenges was rejected by the appeal court, Scientology’s lawyers and the defendants quit the courtroom.
In the Cour de Cassation today, a new set of lawyers for Scientology argued that the court of appeal had denied the defendants their full rights.
The court, they argued, should have stopped the proceedings after the walk-out to allow the defendants to hire new lawyers.
Claire Waquet, representing the counter-cult group UNADFI, which had tried and failed to gain plaintiff status in the trial, retorted that this was a bit rich.
It was they, after all, who had taken up so much court time with procedural issues; and it was they who had chosen to stage their walk-out.
Back in 2009, a Paris court convicted two Scientology organisations of organised fraud; a number of Scientology staffers were also convicted on charges ranging from fraud to the illegal practice of pharmacy.
The fraud-related charges were focused on the use of the Personality Test and the use of hard-sell techniques to get ever greater sums of money out of members.
The illegal practice of pharmacy convictions were over the administration of the controversial Purification Rundown progamme, a core element of the Narconon programme.
As soon as the appeal court confirmed the convictions in February 2012, Scientology’s lawyers lodged appeals with the Cour de Cassation.
The criminal chamber of the court heard arguments this afternoon.
If on October 16, it confirms some or all of the convictions, there is a good chance that Scientology will take the case to the European courts.
This is the first time the movement rather than just individual officers have been convicted of these offences and the organisations seems determined not to let these convictions stand.
Also today, at his blog Jonny reviews a new graphic novel about Scientology which was published in France. As always, his thoroughness is amazing. See Jonny’s report here.
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 4, 2013 at 17:00
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