Paris, February 2, 2012
The Paris appeals court also ordered the French branch of the Church of Scientology to publish the ruling in five of the country's largest daily newspapers. The court also handed suspended sentences and fines to five Scientologists. That included Alain Rosenberg, the head of the French church, who received a two-year suspended sentence and a fine of nearly $40,000, reports Voice of America.
A lawyer for the Scientology church, Alexis Gulbin, said the U.S.-based organization would challenge the appeals-court ruling before a higher court, the Cour de Cassation.
The Church of Scientology was first convicted of fraud and fined in 2009. The case followed complaints filed in the late 1990s by two former church members, who said they had been cheated out of money by the organization. One of them said she had given €21,000 to the organization over a period of several months. After leaving the group, she asked to be reimbursed, but the Church of Scientology didn't give her the money back, she said in court testimony.
The 2009 conviction saw Scientology's Celebrity Centre and its bookshop in Paris, the two branches of its French operations, ordered to pay 600,000 euros ($790,000) in fines for preying financially on several followers in the 1990s.
The original ruling, while stopping short of banning the group from operating in France, dealt a blow to the secretive movement Maurice told French radio the verdict paved the way for other legal decisions that may lead to the church's dissolution in France. He said many European countries had been waiting for the verdict—notably Germany and Belgium, which currently have legal proceedings against the Church of Scientology, the Voice of America reports.