Belgian Scientologists vow to 'do more' after case dropped

26th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Belgian Scientologists vowed Tuesday to "do more" in the community and pursue controversial anti-drugs programmes in particular after allegations that could have led to the religion being banned in Belgium were formally dropped.

In March a Belgian judge threw out charges including fraud, extortion and the illegal practice of medicine against 11 members of the celebrity-backed US church, ruling that the defendants had been targeted because of their religion.

The decision on Tuesday became "definitive" because Belgian prosecutors had failed to appeal, Pascal Vanderveeren, the lawyer for the Belgian branch of Scientology, told a press conference.

"There is enormous relief," Belgian Scientology Eric Roux told the press conference.

"We have been rehabilitated, we are Belgian citizens and we want to help our country, particularly by means of our preventative campaigns against drugs," Roux said.

"We will try to do more. We intend to develop, we have things to bring to the table."

Scientology's anti-drugs programmes -- dubbed Narconon -- have repeatedly faced criticism for being unscientific.

Championed by superstar members such as Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology stirs up sharp divisions -- critics decry it as a cult and a scam, while supporters say it offers much-needed spiritual support in a fast-changing world.

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.

© 2016 AFP

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