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New criminal case for Scientology in France could shut it down permanently in that country

ScalesA surprising new story out of France today has huge implications for Scientology in that country. Our man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, has the lowdown for us. Take it away, Jonny

Scientology, already convicted in France of organised fraud, is in trouble with the courts here again.

The Paris Court of Appeal is resurrecting a case dating back to 1998 in which a private school allegedly sneaked Scientology material onto its curriculum.

Lawyer Olivier Morice, a longstanding opponent of the movement in the French courts who is acting for some of the plaintiffs in this case, broke the news on Monday.

The Paris court will place three Scientologists and three organisations linked to Scientology under formal investigation over the affair, Morice said. The alleged offences range from fraud, deceptive commercial practices and the abuse of public funds.

With the case having dragged on for more than a decade already under at least eight different investigating magistrates, it was beginning to look as if it might never come to trial — nor does this latest development guarantee that it will.

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But the Paris appeal court decided to take over the case because it was not satisfied with the way the local courts had handled it, Morice added.

Among the allegations are that unqualified teachers taught Scientology precepts to around 50 pupils at the school.

Jonny Jacobsen

Jonny Jacobsen

Parents raised the alarm after learning that students were being made to do cleaning duties at the school and that one teacher was using “touch assists,” a kind of laying-on-of-hands practised by Scientologists to help overcome pain.

Back in 2011, the prosecutor’s office in Créteil, Val-de-Marne, near Paris, filed charges against four people, including at least two Scientologists.

But it chose not to prosecute any of the Scientology organisations implicated, arguing in its indictment that so much time had already passed that this was no longer feasible.

A year later, the courts dismissed a large part of the case.

Morice appealed, and after conducting its own investigation the Paris Appeal Court appears to feel there could, after all, be a case to answer — not just against individuals but against Scientology organisations.

This time around, the Paris appeal court has put three Scientology organisations under the spotlight, breathing new life into what had appeared to be a moribund case.

Responding to the news, lawyer for Scientology Louis Pamponnet pointed out that this latest development did not necessarily mean there would be a trial.

But one of the groups being investigated is the Paris Celebrity Centre, one of the two Scientology organisations convicted back in 2009 for organised fraud.

That conviction was confirmed by France’s top court only last year, although Scientology is trying to bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights, arguing it did not get a fair trial.

If the Centre is put on trial again and convicted, it could be shut down under French law — and Morice has argued that a second such conviction could even spell the end of Scientology in France.

The Institut Aubert, which was based in Vincennes, just outside Paris, has long since closed.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on January 13, 2014 at 17:20

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