The case centres on a complaint made in 1998 by a woman who said she was enrolled into Scientology after members approached her in the street and persuaded her to do a personality test.
In the following months, she paid more than â‚¬21,000 for books, â€˜purification packsâ€™ of vitamins, sauna sessions and an â€˜e-meterâ€™ to measure her spiritual progress, she said.
Other complaints then surfaced. The five original plaintiffs â€“ three of whom withdrew after reaching a financial settlement with the Church of Scientology â€“ said they spent up to hundreds of thousands of euros on similar tests and â€˜curesâ€™.
They told investigators that Scientology members harassed them with phone calls and nightly visits to cajole them into paying their bills or taking out bank loans.
The plaintiffs were described as â€˜vulnerableâ€™ by psychological experts in the case. [...]
Investigating judge Jean-Christophe Hullin spent years examining the groupâ€™s activities, and in his indictment criticized practices he said were aimed at extracting large sums of money from members and plunging them into a â€˜state of subjectionâ€™.
The investigator questioned what he called the Scientologistsâ€™ â€˜obsessionâ€™ with financial gain, and the groupâ€™s practice of selling vitamins, leading to the charge of â€˜acting illegally as a pharmacyâ€™.
The Church of Scientologyâ€™s French branch, its bookstore and six of the movementâ€™s leaders were convicted of organized fraud.
Olivier Morice, lawyer for Unadfi, an organisation which campaigns against sects, said he wants to the trial to include evidence about the methods and techniques of the Scientology movement, which, he said, are those of organised fraud.
â€œFor us, Scientology is a business, whose main goal is to elicit money from its followers,â€ he told reporters outside the court.
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