A Belgium courtroom is on the verge of banning the Church of Scientology from the country as the trial of the church’s Belgian branch enters its final round of arguments.
Several key church members and two affiliate bodies are charged with fraud and extortion. A lawyer involved in the case said a verdict will likely see a ban of church activities in Belgium sometime early next year.
“You can’t explain an investigation this long and of such relentlessness against people who were only trying to peacefully practice their religion in Belgium,” Eric Roux said, who is a spokesman for Scientology’s defense team.
— VICE News (@vicenews) October 31, 2015
Authorities first launched an investigation in 1997 after former members complained about the church’s practices. A second soon followed a decade later when an employment agency charged that the church had made false job offers so as to recruit new members.
“The Church of Scientology goes to court with the firm intention of seeing the fundamental rights of its Belgian members finally recognized,” the official said last Friday. “Not only does the church contest the charges against it, which affect the fundamental rights of all Scientologists, it also intends to denounce the serious judicial abuses against it of the past 18 years.”
Belgium federal prosecutors asked the court during the early stages of the trial to dissolve the church’s presence in the country or face serious fines. However, many believe they will simply file under a new name and relaunch itself in a West European country.
As Scientology begun to spread throughout the world, gaining popularity and political power, governments were taking notice of its borderline illegal practices.
Last month, Russian courts ruled to dissolve the Moscow branch of the church by rescinding its classification as a religious organization. Also, a ruling council in Switzerland has voted to restrict the rights of the church, which includes its street recruitment methods along with questioning its religious status in the country.
According to Wired, Wikipedia has even prohibited the church from altering any articles pertaining to the controversial religion after repeated and deceptive editing by the church members.
Featured image via anongalactic.