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France high court upholds Scientology fraud conviction

France's highest appeals court on Wednesday upheld the 2009 fraud conviction of the Church of Scientology [church website; JURIST news archive]. The Cour de Cassation [official website, in French], the country's court of final appeal for civil and criminal matters, rejected the organization's request [AFP report] that the conviction be overturned on the grounds it violated religious freedom. The original ruling convicted Scientology's Celebrity Centre and bookstore in Paris of fraud following numerous instances of pressuring members [AP report] into paying large sums for questionable services and materials. The Church of Scientology is not recognized as a religion under French law.

Scientology, founded by American science fiction author L Ron Hubbard in 1954, has also been challenged in Russia, which recently banned its main texts [JURIST report]. Prior to that, in 2009, Russia attempted to block Scientology from registering as a religion, which prompted the European Court of Human Rights to condemn the decision as discriminatory [JURIST report]. That same year, Belgian prosecutor Jean-Claude Van Espen said Scientology should be classified as a criminal organization [JURIST report] after completing a 10-year investigation into the church's activities.

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