Title: French verdict
Author:
rkeller@netaxs.com (Rod Keller)
Date: 15 Nov 1999 13:36:38 GMT

French ex-Scientology leader guilty of fraud
November 15, 1999 

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) -- A French court on Monday passed a jail
sentence on a former regional leader of the Church of Scientology for
fraud in connection with courses offered by the organisation.

Xavier Delamare, who formerly headed the group in southeastern France, was
sentenced to two years in jail, including 18 months suspended, and fined
100,000 francs ($15,750). Because he has served 17 weeks' pre-trial
detention he will not return to jail.

Five other members of the church were given suspended sentences ranging
from six months to a year. One defendant, who has turned against the group
and accused Delamare of sending him on suspect fund-raising missions, was
cleared.

The seven Scientologists went on trial last September in connection with
courses in "spiritual purification" organised for church members between
1987 and 1990. Charges of violence and illegally practising medicine were
dropped. 

Prosecutor Danielle Drouay-Ayral had recommended Delamare be sent to
prison for 18 months, with another 18 months suspended, saying the group
was bent on making money from its followers. 

Delamare's lawyer Jean-Yves Le Borgne said after the verdict that the
proceedings had smacked of lynch law. 

The trial was marred by the disappearance of legal evidence, which
authorities blamed on a court clerk's mistake.

The Church of Scientology denied any responsibility and said its opponents
were waging a slander campaign by trying to blame administrative blunders
on the movement.

Legal documents that could have been used as evidence against the movement
in two other cases have also gone missing.

French authorities view the Church of Scientology with suspicion and
publicly expressed irritation last month about a U.S. State Department
report scorning official French attitudes towards the movement.

The French position was outlined to visiting U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for
Religious Freedom Robert Seiple, author of a report containing criticism
of Paris. 

Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou has raised the prospect of banning the
Church of Scientology in France.

Unlike the United States, France does not recognise Scientology as a
religion. Members of the group complain of harassment and persecution.

Scientology, founded in 1954 by the late American science fiction writer
L. Ron Hubbard and based in the United States, claims more than eight
million adherents worldwide.