Church of Scientology case under review by the Brussels Council Chamber
Thursday, January 9, 2014
On Thursday, the Brussels Council Chamber began hearing arguments concerning a possible criminal trial of the Scientology movement and a dozen of its members, now 17 years after the first judicial inquiry into this matter began. The federal prosecutor's office wants to prosecute Scientology as a criminal organization and to accuse the suspects of fraud, illegal practice of medicine, violation of privacy laws, and extortion.
The first investigation into the Church of Scientology began in 1997 when several former members filed complaints. Ten years later, the prosecutor's office recommended that twelve persons and two companies, the Belgian branch of the Church of Scientology and the European Office of the Church of Scientology International, be tried in criminal court.
Before this case reached the Council Chamber, a second investigation was launched after a complaint was filed by the Brussels Regional Employment Office (Actiris). The Church of Scientology was suspected of advertising counterfeit job offers. Persons who answered the ads were not awarded a job, but instead found themselves in a kind of volunteer status.
A few months ago, the federal prosecutor's office decided to merge the two investigations. The Council Chamber must now choose which persons and entities would stand trial in criminal court.
The Scientology movement was founded in 1954 by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and it claims 12 million members in 8,000 churches and 165 countries.
According to the federal prosecutor's office and attorneys, the Council Chamber's proceedings will span about four weeks.