• France edition
 
French scientologists angered by fraud verdict
"Justice for scientologists!" Some of the French Church of Scientology's 45,000 members protest an "organized fraud" conviction, in 2011. The verdict was upheld on October 16th. Photo: Saget/AFP

French scientologists angered by fraud verdict

Published: 16 Oct 2013 15:31 GMT+02:00

The Cour de Cassation in Paris, France's highest appeals court, on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the Church of Scientology against several convictions for "organized fraud".

The Church had argued in a September 4th hearing that the verdicts constituted a violation of their religious liberty, but the court on Wednesday rejected that claim.

In 2009, convictions and fines of €400,000 and €200,000 ($812,000 in total) were handed down to the Church’s Celebrity Centre and a Scientology bookshop in the French capital.

Scientology leader in Paris, Alain Rosenburg and the Celebrity Centre's former president Sabine Jacquart were also found guilty of taking financial advantage of elderly members of the Church and sentenced to two-year suspended prison sentences as well as being handed €30,000 fines for organized fraud.

'We're being judged for our beliefs'

French scientologist minister Eric Roux on Wednesday told The Local the ruling was an example of France's "religious persecution" of the Church.

"France is really the most backwards country in Europe in terms of religious tolerance," he said. "We're being judged for our beliefs, not our behaviour. How can the Cours de Cassation decide that our beliefs are untrue or fraudulent, but not say the same thing about Protestants or Catholics?"

The charges resulted from accusations by Parisians that they had been pressured into handing over large sums of money to buy materials in the book shop and Celebrity Centre.

The Church’s unsuccessful appeal to the Cour de Cassation came a year after it failed to convince a lower court of appeal to overturn the original verdicts and sentences.


File photo of a French Scientology centre: Guirec Lefort/Flickr

An 'evil cult' in France, a religion in Spain

The Celebrity Centre had earlier rejected the charges as “totally false and inequitable”, according to French daily Direct Matin, complaining the trial had “numerous irregularities and in which the fundamental rights of scientologists were violated”.

Speaking during the hearing in September, lawyer Louis Boré denied that the Church had ever asked for money from its followers, but Roux told The Local on Wednesday that "anyone whose money we gave back dropped their complaint against us."

"That's how I know this is about our religious beliefs and not about a criminal case. Why else would the French government get involved and apply so much pressure in the case?"

The Church will now take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, Roux added. Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The scientologist minister called for Europe-wide uniformity of laws regarding religious freedoms. "How can we be considered an evil cult in France, but a religion in Spain?"

Suicide after a negative personality test

This isn’t the first time the Church of Scientology has been touched by scandal in France.

In 1996, Jean-Jacques Mazier, leader of the Lyon branch of the Church, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for fraud and involuntary homicide after Church member Patrice Vic committed suicide after going into debt to pay for Scientology auditing sessions.

In 2008 Kaja Bordevich Ballo, a Norwegian student living in Nice, killed herself after receiving the results of a negative Scientology personality test. However, prosecutors failed to find a direct link between the test and the woman’s suicide.

While the Church is considered as a religion in the US where it was founded in 1954 by science-fiction author Ron Hubbard, it is classed as a “sect” in France, following a parliamentary report in 1995.

In France alone the Church of Scientology counts some 45,000 followers, and 10 million worldwide. 

Don't miss a story about France - Join us on Facebook and Twitter

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
The Local List
Ten random ways France leads the world
Salmon stuffed croissants, one of the ways in which France leads the world? Photo: Alpa/flickr

Ten random ways France leads the world

We all know France tops the global rankings for tourism and wine production but the country is also a world leader in many other slightly more obscure ways that are nevertheless worth cheering for or blushing at. READ  

French police in crisis as suicide rate spirals
Police officers protest in Paris as the number of suicides this years tops 50. Photo: AFP

French police in crisis as suicide rate spirals

With the number of suicides in the French police in 2014 passing 50 on Friday the government is under pressure to deal with a growing crisis. The Local asks a police union chief what is pushing so many officers to end their lives. READ  

Black Friday struggles to seduce French shoppers
Shoppers in France are more likely to stick to the usual sales for bargain hunts rather than go crazy for Black Friday. Photo: AFP

Black Friday struggles to seduce French shoppers

While some French retailers are hoping the US phenomenon "Black Friday" will seduce shoppers looking for bargains, the main question being asked in France was “What exactly is Black Friday?” READ  

Floods in south of France leave four dead
Rescuers search a flooded river for two missing people in the south of France. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Floods in south of France leave four dead

Four people died and two other people were still missing on Friday after a heavy storm triggered flash flooding in southeastern France, the government said. Weather warnings were in place for some 14 departments in the region. READ  

US tycoon mocks France for being 'communist'
Maurice Taylor, chief executive of Titan International says France should become "Communist". Photo: AFP

US tycoon mocks France for being 'communist'

A US tyre tycoon on Friday ridiculed French laws and trade unions that he said had prevented him from investing in a stricken factory, saying France should become "communist". READ  

Paris: Protesters block 'racist' human zoo show
"No to human zoos" and "My body is not for sale", were just two of banners held up by protesters at Exhibit B show in Paris. Photo: Gilda Di Carli

Paris: Protesters block 'racist' human zoo show

A divisive art show featuring black actors in cages as a portrayal of 19th century "human zoos" had to be halted on Thursday after more than 120 angry protesters smashed their way into Paris theatre where it was being held. READ  

EU sets March deadline for France to fix budget
France has until March to implement further austerity measures, demanded by the EU.

EU sets March deadline for France to fix budget

The EU has given France a stay of execution after deciding to give it until March to fix its budget. Paris could still face fines however if it fails to implement further economic reforms. READ  

France -Israel
Lawyer attacked in Paris hit-and-run trial
Trial for the death of Lee Zeitouni halted in Paris after lawyer attacked. Photo: Jack Glez/AFP

Lawyer attacked in Paris hit-and-run trial

The Paris trial of two Frenchmen accused of killing a young Israeli woman in a hit-and-run road accident in Tel Aviv was halted Thursday after a defence lawyer was assaulted during a break in proceedings. READ  

Found in France: Ice age statuette of busty woman
About 12 centimetres (4.7 inches) high, it shows a woman with big breasts and buttocks. The head and arms are less detailed. Photo: AFP

Found in France: Ice age statuette of busty woman

A 23,000-year-old limestone statuette of a woman with big breasts and buttocks has been discovered in northern France in what archaeologists on Thursday described as an “exceptional” find. READ  

French MPs push for Palestine recognition
Photo: A woman holds a sign reading "Hollande Palestine will live, Palestine will win" during an anti-Israel demo. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

French MPs push for Palestine recognition

French lawmakers were to debate on Friday a motion urging the government to recognize Palestine as a state, amid growing European frustration at the moribund Middle East peace process. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
What's on: Ten things to do in France before Christmas
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
Education
Is Paris really the best place in the world to be a student?
Society
The things gynecologists say that drive French women mad
Sponsored Article
Live like a local - anywhere in the world
National
A pill to make flatulence smell like roses? A Frenchman has cracked it
Culture
Rare 400-year-old Shakespeare work found in northern France
National
Paris air pollution: 'It's like being in a room with eight smokers'
National
From infidelity to sexual needs: How French women have changed in 30 years
National
Billboards to be replaced by trees - the bold move by one French city
Gallery
French government gives 10 reasons to be proud: No. 1 - The Economy
Politics
France's 'first ladies': A look back at the other halves
National
Would background music make the RER in Paris feel safer?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
National
Trierweiler to break her silence... in the UK
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Winter is coming to the French Alps
Gallery
Don't confuse France with Paris: Here's ten reasons why
National
From the homeless to migrants: A portrait of modern France in ten stats
Culture
Are you brainy enough to be Miss France? Take the quiz
Gallery
France's most notorious celebrities. How many do you know?
Society
City of Love? Seven Paris myths debunked
Education
Why is France worst in the EU at English?
National
C'est pas possible! Paris is 'world's cheapest city for young people'
National
Looking to save space? France allows toilets in kitchens for first time
National
Find out how women in France are getting stung for a hidden tax
Culture
Which one is your favourite? The top 10 heartiest French winter dishes
Face Of The Week
Nabilla - 'France's Kim Kardashian' held for attempted murder
National
So who's scaring everyone by flying drones over France’s nuclear plants?
Education
Whoever thinks French was a dying language should read this
Politics
OPINION: 'One day France will be grateful to François Hollande'
Gallery
IN IMAGES: A history of France's most controversial architecture
National
How to make an 8-square-metre Paris apartment perfectly liveable
Gallery
VIDEO: France's raunchiest TV ads, including that infamous Perrier one
National
Five reasons why you should work a ski season in France and five not to
National
10 art exhibitions not to miss this autumn in Paris
Culture
What's on in France: 11 things to do this November
National
How French have you become? Take our quiz to find out
National
10 things to never say to a French person
National
Top 10: When French translations go wrong
National
Parisian bars that serve drinkers free meals
National
France falls to Germans in nude swim tourney
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Nowhere combines sex and art quite like France
National
Why you should never turn down an invitation to a French wedding
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se