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Our man in Europe reports on Belgium’s criminal prosecution of Scientology

Scientology_BelgiumOur man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, has a report for us on how things are going in Belgium, where federal prosecutors will soon be making an important decision about Scientology in that country. Take it away, Jonny…

A Belgian court has begun considering whether two criminal investigations against Scientology, one dating back as far as 1997, should go to trial — and if so, who should be in the dock.

The Chambre de Conseil in Brussels is looking at two cases in which federal investigators laid charges not just against individual Scientologists, but the movement itself. Its hearings are expected to last four weeks.

As we reported at the time, late in 2012 federal prosecutors charged two senior executives and Scientology’s Brussels operation with fraud and other offences. That move came nearly four years after police raids on Scientology’s offices there.

The case sprang out of complaints by job-seekers to Actiris, the Brussels regional employment office, that the movement had used fake job offers to try to recruit new members. The jobs on offer turned out to be unpaid voluntary work. (For more details see this report at Infinite Complacency.)

 
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The other case under consideration is an investigation that is now more than 16 years old.

Although it was opened in 1997 it took until 2007 for federal prosecutors to charge 12 individuals and two Scientology organisations on charges ranging from fraud to the illegal practice of medicine.

The case got bogged down in procedural wrangling and ended up at the Chambre de Conseil. Last year, as Belgian media reports had anticipated, the court decided to merge the two cases.

Over the next few weeks it will decide if there is any case to answer, and if so whether the organisation itself or just individual officers should face trial.

There is nothing of course to stop it dismissing all or at least some of the charges — and given the time that has elapsed since the first investigation started, that seems a real possibility.

On the other hand, the French courts have shown that Scientology as an organisation can be successfully prosecuted. Scientology’s 2009 conviction for organised fraud was confirmed by the country’s highest court last year (though the movement is taking France to the European Court of Human Rights over the issue).

There are clear indications that the Belgian prosecutors have adopted a similar line to the one taken by French prosecutors.

The ubiquitous mnql1 has translated one of the Belgian media reports over at Why We Protest.

It comes from the daily Le Soir newspaper, but appears to be largely based on copy supplied by the Belga news agency. (A pity they feel the need to regurgitate Scientology’s claim of 12 million members, even if they couch it in the conditional tense.)

 
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Jamie_DeWolfJamie DeWolf gets a nice boost from Upworthy, resulting in Facebook panic

We called up Jamie DeWolf Tuesday night when we saw that his 2011 monologue about his great-grandad, L. Ron Hubbard, had gotten the Upworthy treatment.

As longtime readers of the Bunker know well, Jamie’s riveting spoken-word performance is about the relationship of Hubbard to his oldest son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr., who was also known as “Nibs” and Ron DeWolf. Growing up, Jamie was close to his grandfather, who died in 1991. (Hubbard senior had died five years earlier, and Jamie never met his great-grandfather.)

When we talked to Jamie Tuesday night, the YouTube video had 80,000 views. With Upworthy’s help, that video has now been seen half a million times. (Not sure what Upworthy is? Here’s a good piece about why most journalists hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. But in this case, we’re happy Jamie got the boost.)

Jamie was excited to see how much the link would help get word out about his show. And we talked about some upcoming things he’s working on — but we’ll need to keep mum about them at this time. Jamie assured us that Bunker readers would be the first to know once he’s ready to talk about his plans.

Anyway, one of our readers sent us this screengrab from Facebook, which showed that Jamie’s newfound fame isn’t going down well with some church members…

 
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Touchy, touchy.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on January 11, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

 

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