Help the refugees

If you move around the world by choice, consider helping those forced from their homes by conflict. Donate to the UN Refugee Agency today.

Home News Belgian prosecutor demands closure of Scientology branch

Belgian prosecutor demands closure of Scientology branch

Published on 25/11/2015

A Belgian prosecutor on Wednesday demanded the dissolution of the local branch of the controversial Church of Scientology in a trial over fraud and extortion allegations.

Eleven members of the church and two affiliated bodies have been charged with fraud, extortion, running a criminal organisation and violating the right to privacy.

Federal prosecutor Christophe Caliman asked a court in Brussels to completely dissolve the Belgian branch of the Church Scientology and for it to face a fine, the Belga news agency reported.

He did not ask for its assets to be confiscated, leaving that to the judge’s discreation, it reported.

The church, known internationally for superstar members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, says the claims are meant to blacken its reputation.

A spokesman for the Church of Scientology, Eric Roux, dubbed the prosecutor an “inquisitor who has taken issue with the religious philosophy of the church.”

“It’s pathetic, it’s a heresy investigation,” he told AFP.

Belgian authorities launched a first investigation in 1997 after several former members complained about its practices.

A second probe followed in 2008 when an employment agency charged that the church had made bogus job offers so as to draw in and recruit new members.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

It is recognised as a religion in the United States and in other countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and claims a worldwide membership of 12 million.