After a long lasting legal battle Belgium prosecutors demand to label the Church of Scientology as a criminal organization and charge it and its leaders with extortion, fraud, privacy breaches, and the illegal practice of medicine.
The subpoenas have been sent to the scientologists, the local financial newspaper De Tijd reported.
The charges against the Church of Scientology stem from employment contracts issued to recruit volunteers and members allegedly breaching the country’s strict employment laws. In Belgium as in some other countries Scientology is not recognized as a faith.
In 2008 the Belgium Labor Mediation Service complained about number of labor contracts, prompting an investigation.
A judge then ordered raids on Scientology premises where police allegedly “managed to seize a wealth of evidence,” that the organization had spied on and extorted money from its members, the Flanders News reported.
Belgian authorities have been legally battling Scientologists since 2007, when the country tried to label the movement as a cult. Around the same time Belgian prosecutors ruled that the Belgian Church of Scientology, plus Scientology’s Office of Human Rights and their 12 members, should be charged with extortion, fraud, organized crime, illegal medical practice.
They were accused of practicing medicine without a license and violating privacy laws.
The church described the case as a “witch hunt”, with vocal supporters in the US condemning the move.
An estimated 500 people belong to the church of Scientology in Belgium, where the government denied Scientology the status of religion in 1997. The organization’s European headquarters are located in Brussels.
In 2009 the organization was convicted in France on fraud charges.
That conviction was upheld in a French appeals court in February 2012.
NOTE BY THE EDITOR: I once asked an author of a book on ‘sects’ why he did not include a chapter on Scientology. He replied that ‘Scientology is not a religion nor a sect, it is a business’.