Scientology Crime Syndicate


WIRE:09/22/1999 13:47:00 ET

Jail sought against French ex-leader of Scientology

MARSEILLE, France, Sept 22 (Reuters) - A state prosecutor on Wednesday asked a French court to jail a former leader of the Church of Scientology for fraud, saying the group was bent on making money from its faithful in "a monstruous con trick."

Prosecutor Danielle Drouay-Ayral recommended that Xavier Delamare, a former leader of the church in southeastern France, be sent to prison for 18 months, with another 18 months suspended, and should be fined 200,000 francs ($32,000).

Delamare, 42, and six other church members were on trial in this southern port city for fraud, violence and illegally practising medicine in connection with courses in spiritual purification organised for church members.

The charges carry a maximum five-year sentence.

The prosecutor asked the court to condemn five other defendants to two years suspended jail sentences and denial of civil rights for five years.

She sought a nominal sentence against the last defendant, Dominique Pons, who has turned against the group and accused Delamare of sending him on shady fundraising missions.

Scientologists, including members from other European countries, protested outside the court on the trial's third day and accused French authorities of harassment.

The church said it had written to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to denounce persecution by an interministerial committee investigating sects and to demand that it be disbanded.

Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou has voiced concern at the power of Scientology, which claims more than eight million adherents worldwide. The head of the committee, Alain Vivien, has said it should be banned in France.

Drouay-Ayral rejected Delamare's arguments that the church's mission was to halt crime, violence, drugs and the degradation of society.


She said would-be members were being lured into joining by questionnaires which she called worthless and aimed at finding personal problems that would justify seeking help through the church's courses and medicine.

"Selling is the Scientologists' only aim...It is a monstrous con trick," she told the court.

Psychiatric experts earlier said that vitamins prescribed by the church had no medical value. They said the Scientology recruited mentally fragile people and made them increasingly dependent on the church by loosening family and social links.

Defence witnesses said gifts of money existed in all religions and were essential to establish a commitment to the church and mutual help.

A former delinquent, 39-year-old Georges Tosiello, told the court Delamare had helped him return to a clean life.

The trial is expected to end by Thursday and the court will give its verdict at a later date.

The hearing has been marred by the disappearance of legal evidence which was blamed by French authorities on a court clerk's mistake. Judge Marie-Annick Varlamoff has rejected the defendants' arguments that the disappearance of documents made a fair trial impossible.


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