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France appeals court upholds Scientology fraud conviction

A French court of appeals on Thursday upheld the 2009 fraud conviction against the Church of Scientology [church website, JURIST news archive], fining the defendants a total of €600,000. The decision upheld the original conviction of the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology (ASES) [church website, in French], an affiliated bookstore, and seven other members for fraud and illegal practice of pharmacy. The complaint was originally filed [JURIST report] by a woman who was recruited in 1998 and spent €21,000 on the church and was then not allowed to leave or receive a reimbursement. The appeals court ordered the ASES to pay €400,000 [AP report] and the bookstore to pay €200,000 in damages to the woman and two other plaintiffs. France does not recognize Scientology as a religion, but the court denied the plaintiffs' request to disband the group in France entirely.

Scientology, founded by American science fiction author L Ron Hubbard in 1954, has also been challenged in Russia, which recently banned its main texts [JURIST report]. Prior to that, in 2009, Russia attempted to block Scientology from registering as a religion, which prompted the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] to condem the decision as discriminatory. That same year, Belgian prosecutor Jean-Claude Van Espen said Scientology should be classified as a criminal organization [JURIST report] after completing a 10-year investigation into the church's activities.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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