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Scientology on trial in France

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A woman who claims she was forced to pay large sums of money

The Church of Scientology has gone on trial in the French capital, Paris, accused of organised fraud.

The case centres on a complaint by a woman who says she was pressured into paying large sums of money after being offered a free personality test.

The church, which is fighting the charges, denies that any mental manipulation took place.

France regards Scientology as a sect, not a religion, and the organisation could be banned if it loses the case.

It is the first time the church has appeared as a defendant in a fraud case in France. Previous court cases have involved individual Scientologists.

Books and medication

Paris branch of Church of Scientology
The Church says it cannot be responsible for individuals

The woman at the centre of this case says she was approached by church members in Paris more than 10 years ago, and offered a free personality test. But, she says, she ended up spending 21,000 euros ($29,400, £18,400) on lessons, books and medicines she was told would cure her poor mental state.

Her lawyers are arguing that the church systematically seeks to make money by means of mental pressure and the use of scientifically dubious "cures".

A lawyer for the church, Patrick Maisonneuve, said: "We will contest every charge and prove that there was no mental manipulation."

The church's spokeswoman in France said it was being "hounded" by the French courts and that its members were facing persecution.

Scientology was founded in the United States in the 1954 by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard. High profile supporters include the Hollywood stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

In Germany last year, it was declared unconstitutional.

However, a Spanish court ruled that the Church of Scientology of Spain should be re-entered into the country's register of officially recognised religions.



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Scientologists face Paris ban
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