[JURIST] The European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Thursday ruled [text] to officially recognize the Church of Scientology [official website] as a legal entity, over strong opposition by Russian authorities. The church has applied for recognition six times between the years of 1995 and 2003. The applications were either rejected or ignored by St. Petersburg authorities. The church as a legal entity was deemed legal by a district court in St. Petersburg in 2003 and was upheld on appeal by 2006. The church then contested the rejections before the ECHR in November 2006, citing Articles 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Confirming that the rejections of recognition violated freedom of religion, the ECHR ruled to legally recognize Scientology and awarded the church €7,500 in moral damages compensation.
In 2011 Russia banned the main texts [JURIST report] of Scientology. In 2009, the ECHR found that Russia discriminated against the Church of Scientology by barring their attempts to re-register as an organized religion [JURIST report]. In 2008 the German government ended an investigation [JURIST report] into the practices of the Church of Scientology. While the government’s investigation into Scientology ceased, the organization was under surveillance by domestic intelligence services [AP report]. Earlier a Scientology center in France faced criminal charges [JURIST report] in connection with allegations of fraud and the illegal practice of pharmacy. 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.