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Belgian prosecutor recommends classifying Church of Scientology as criminal

[JURIST] Belgian prosecutor Jean-Claude Van Espen said Tuesday that the Church of Scientology [church website] should be classified as a criminal organization after completing a 10-year investigation into the church's activities. Van Espen also recommended that the Church and a dozen of its adherents should face criminal charges of fraud and extortion in Belgium [JURIST news archive], where the Church is not deemed an official religious group [IRNA report]. The Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office also alleges that the Church of Scientology International European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights [branch website] in Brussels has unlawfully practiced medicine and violated privacy laws. A Belgian administrative court will evaluate whether charges should be filed against the Church; if so, a court hearing may occur within the next few months.

A spokesperson for the Church of Scientology said the organization will fight any charges filed by Belgium. Belgium began investigating Scientology in 1997, after former church members complained that the church used threats and intimidation against them. AP has more.

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