A French court of appeals on Thursday upheld the 2009 fraud conviction against the Church of Scientology [church website, JURIST news archive], fining the defendants a total of €600,000. The decision upheld the original conviction of the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology (ASES) [church website, in French], an affiliated bookstore, and seven other members for fraud and illegal practice of pharmacy. The complaint was originally filed [JURIST report] by a woman who was recruited in 1998 and spent €21,000 on the church and was then not allowed to leave or receive a reimbursement. The appeals court ordered the ASES to pay €400,000 [AP report] and the bookstore to pay €200,000 in damages to the woman and two other plaintiffs. France does not recognize Scientology as a religion, but the court denied the plaintiffs' request to disband the group in France entirely.
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 (ECHR) [official website] to condem the decision as discriminatory. 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.