Prosecutor wants breakup of Scientology Church

Brussels – A Belgian prosecutor asked a court on Wednesday for the dissolution of the country’s branch of the Church of Scientology, in a trial relating to allegations of fraud, criminal organisation and illegal medical activities, Belga news agency reported.

The Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, has run into legal trouble in several countries around the world.

Critics describe the organisation as a worrisome cult, but it is formally recognised as a religion in some countries.

One of Scientology’s most prominent members is the Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.

The Belgian trial draws on evidence gathered over the course of 20 years.

The European and Belgian offices of Scientology, and 11 of its members, stand accused of activities including the use of potentially harmful substances during initiation rituals, the publication of false job openings and the violation of privacy laws, Belga reported.

The trial has also taken a close look at the Belgian organisation’s accounts, which include weekly revenues of around €5, 000, according to a former treasurer who testified in court.

The crown prosecutor also asked the court for suspended prison sentences of between six and 20 months and requested the maximum available fine.

The hearings are expected to continue into December. — AFP

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