Brussels, Oct 26 (IANS) A major criminal trial over the practices of the Scientology religious community began in Belgium on Monday.
Belgium’s federal prosecutor is pursuing charges of extortion, money laundering, fraud, violation of privacy laws and practice of illegal medicine, Xinhua news agency quoted Belgian public broadcaster VRT as saying. The 12 defendants deny all charges.
The trial follows a complaint filed by the Brussels employment agency Actiris, which reportedly became suspicious of several job advertisements placed by the Scientology community.
According to VRT, it is estimated that somewhere between 300 and 500 people in Belgium are members of Scientology, which is considered a cult under Belgian law.
The broadcaster said in its report, “The lawsuit is bad news for an organization reputed to be very controlling, which attempts to suppress any kind of negative coverage.”
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
Scientology is a community of beliefs and practices created by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. It is also one of the most controversial new religious movements and is often termed as a business, a criminal enterprise, or a cult.
It has been accused of brainwashing and fraud against its members.