• France's news in English
 
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
Surfers shun Réunion after shark attacks
Photo: Richard Bouhet/AFP

Surfers shun Réunion after shark attacks

Reunion, once a haven for surfers from around the world, has become a deadly black spot for the sport after a slew of shark attacks. READ  

French ship 'Hermoine' sails again
Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

French ship 'Hermoine' sails again

A replica of the French navy frigate Hermione which brought General Lafayette to America to rally rebels fighting Britain in the US war of independence, will set sail for the United States again on Saturday, 235 years after the original crossing. READ  

Teens suspected of French website attacks
File photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Teens suspected of French website attacks

READ  

Tête-a-tête - Tu versus vous
Isn't it time France scrapped tu and vous?
"Did you just say tu to me?" Photo: Shutterstock

Isn't it time France scrapped tu and vous?

Everyone who has ever lived in France knows all about the social minefield that is tu and vous - and that goes for the French too. The Local France’s editor Ben McPartland and French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis argue over whether it’s time to ditch the protocol. READ  

Racism in France
France unveils plan to fight 'intolerable' racism
The French government will reveal on Friday how it plans to tackle racism in France.Photo: AFP

France unveils plan to fight 'intolerable' racism

UPDATED: France’s top ministers, lead by the PM Manuel Valls, unveiled on Friday the country's new plan to tackle rising racism and anti-Semitism in the country. Incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have rocketed since January’s terror attacks. READ  

Huge blaze cuts Paris train link to CDG airport
Rail traffic to the Charles de Gaulle airport has been disrupted. Photo: AFP

Huge blaze cuts Paris train link to CDG airport

UPDATED: The RER B train line linking Paris to Charles de Gaulle airport was cut on Friday after thick black smoke from a huge fire filled the skies to the north of Paris. READ  

Visiting Paris
The weirdest objects you can see around Paris
Just one of the unusual things you can see around Paris. Photo: ollografik/Flickr

The weirdest objects you can see around Paris

From horned birds to pinched nipples, Paris has more than its share of wacky and offbeat objects to see. Join us as we take a closer look at some of the most unusual things you can find in the city's museums, shops... and even sewers, courtesy of the folks behind the Paris Pass sightseeing package. READ  

Metro whizzes through Paris with doors open
A Paris Metro hurtles through a tunnel with the doors open. Photo: Le Traineau/YouTube

Metro whizzes through Paris with doors open

Or at least that's what a video that has appeared on YouTube appears to show. The French capital's transport chiefs have launched an investigation. But is it real? READ  

When French tourists behave badly abroad
A quokka in western Australia. Photo: OzinOH/Flickr

When French tourists behave badly abroad

As two French tourists are fined for burning a small Australian mammal, we take a look at some of the worst examples of the French misbehaving abroad - including orgies in Pompeii to near-naked dancing in Roman fountains... READ  

US families of Holocaust victims sue SNCF
An SNCF train, stationed in northern France. Photo: Alfenaar/Flickr

US families of Holocaust victims sue SNCF

Descendants of Holocaust victims have filed a lawsuit in the US claiming France's national railway seized property of tens of thousands of Jews and others sent to Nazi concentration camps from France, according to court documents. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Sexual harassment rife on Paris trains
National
Marine Le Pen makes Time 'most influential' list
International
Torching animals to threesomes: French tourists behave badly abroad
Cannes Film Festival line-up revealed
National
Cartoonist's book slams 'Islamophobia swindlers'
National
More French women than men lured by Isis
Society
Les Entrepreneurs: We chat with the founder of Paris Picnic
National
Edith Piaf celebrated at Parisian exhibit
How the health reforms will change life in France
Gallery
Naked protests: The French love to take their clothes off to make a point
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Then and now - the site of the Alps plane crash
Travel
So why would anyone really want to live in Lille?
Opinion
Why the French should be very worried about new spying powers
National
Spain's newest export to France: Vultures
Did a row over stolen veg lead to the murder of a British expat in France?
VIDEO: French rail chiefs SNCF furious after the Paris-Roubaix race
National
What does Zlatan think of his suspension?
Sport
What the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris would look like
Culture
IN PICS: Take a look inside France's new 36,000 year-old tourist site
International
Did the Pope reject France's envoy to the Vatican because he was gay?
Cyberjihad: Hacking of French TV channel was 'a step up'
Politics
PROFILE: Jean-Marie Le Pen - France's far-right master provocateur
National
France's fatigued 'anti-terror' police resort to calling sick
National
Dipping baguette in a bowl of coffee! - French habits foreigners don't get
Strike latest: Scores of flights cancelled in France
Features
New Calais migrant camp 'the worst in Europe'
Society
ASK THE EXPERTS: So why are the French always on strike?
National
French air traffic control strike: Tourists face travel chaos
Culture
Which stars will land an invite to the Cannes Film Festival?
Technology
Paris holds film festival for blind cinema goers
National
Paris wants to triple its number of cyclists by 2020
National
Readers tell us of the joys of living in France's 'expat no-go zones'
Cannes Film Festival says no to red carpet selfies for 2015
Health
France to ban unlimited refills of soft drinks
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
The enclosed terraces of Paris cafés - where the smoking ban is ignored.
France's 'winter truce' has been called off, but what exactly is it?
National
What's on in France: Ten things to do in April
National
Paris bistros crack down on loud tourists. Surely it's an April Fools
National
The key reforms of France's healthcare bill
National
Here's the place to get the best baguettes in Paris
More French pensioners head abroad to settle
Is it possible to make the most of fine food in Paris on a student budget?
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