French court to rule on Scientology in October
Known for its Hollywood celebrity followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology is in the dock in Paris for the second time in six years.Paris -- A French court will hand down a decision in October on whether to shut down the Church of Scientology in France and convict its leaders for organised fraud, the judge said Wednesday.
Prosecutors asked the court to order the church's Celebrity Centre in Paris and a bookshop to be dismantled and called for suspended jail sentences for the leader and five others members on trial.
The decision will be handed down on October 27.
Known for its Hollywood celebrity followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology is in the dock in Paris for the second time in six years, although French courts have prosecuted several individual Scientologists since 1978.
The court began hearings on May 25 after two women lodged complaints, one of whom said she was pressured into handing over 20,000 euros (28,000 dollars) for costly Scientology products in late 1998.
The second plaintiff alleged she was forced by her Scientologist employer to undergo testing and enrol in courses in 1998. When she resisted, she was fired.
Lawyers for the organisation argued that Scientology was a legitimate religion whose members faced persecution.
Instead of dismantling the Church of Scientology in France, "I am asking you to dismantle the prejudices and pre-conceived ideas" about the organisation, said lawyer Patrick Maisonneuve.
Founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology is officially recognised as a religion there.
But politicians in some European countries including France, Germany, Greece and Russia have accused the movement of exploiting its members financially.