Monday, May 25, 2009
The Church of Scientology and six of its French leaders went on trial on Monday on charges of organised fraud that could lead to an outright ban on the organisation in France.
Known for its Hollywood celebrity followers Tom Cruise and John Travolta, the group is in the dock in Paris for the second time in six years, although French courts have prosecuted several individual Scientologists since 1978.
The court is hearing a complaint from two women, one of whom alleges she was manipulated into handing over 20,000 euros (28,000 dollars) for costly Scientology products, such as an “electrometer” to measure mental energy.
She says she was approached in a Paris street by a Scientologist in late 1998 who offered a free personality test, at a time when she was feeling psychologically fragile.
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After being told that her test results were poor, the woman was sold a series of “life-improvement courses”, vitamins and other products that she could ill afford, landing her in debt.
The second complainant alleges she was forced by her Scientologist employer to undergo testing and enroll in courses in 1998. When she resisted, she was fired.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers argue that Scientology resorts to harassment and pressure to rein in victims who show signs of vulnerability.
Full story here.