Paris court clears Opus Dei-linked group of abuse
A Paris court on Thursday cleared two members of the powerful Roman Catholic organisation Opus Dei and an association close to it of subjecting a disciple to years of abusive working practices.
The University and Technical Culture Association (ACUT) in northern France was accused of inadequate remuneration and illegal employment by Catherine Tissier, who said that as a teenager she was forced to work 14-hour days.
Tissier's lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut said that he would appeal the ruling.
The alleged victim told the court how she had entered Opus Dei, aged 16, as a so-called "auxiliary numerary", a term used to refer to women who carry out menial tasks, swearing chastity, obedience and poverty.
She said she was exploited for 13 years by a hotel school connected to ACUT and by other Opus Dei-linked institutions.
The prosecutor had called for a fine of 30,000 euros (40,000 dollars), alleging that "employment law was completely ignored."
Several witnesses testified during the trial that Opus Dei had a "sectarian" hold on some of its members.
Defence lawyer Thierry Laugier strove to show that ACUT was "completely separate" from Opus Dei, with only a "partnership for spiritual activities" connecting them.
The organisation, which is branded a sect by some critics, came to wide attention after being portrayed as a secretive and violent cult in the blockbuster novel and film "The Da Vinci Code".
Opus Dei strongly objected to its portrayal in the film.
The group -- which has a chiefly lay membership estimated at 80,000 -- was founded in 1928 by Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer, who was canonised in 2002 with support from the late pope John Paul II.
© 2011 AFP