By ANTHEE CARASSAVA
Associated Press Writer
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- An Athens court has called the Church of
Scientology a danger to society and ordered it to close, drawing fire
from Scientologists, who called the decision a sham.
A copy of the ruling obtained by The Associated Press on Friday accused the church of operating under the cloak of a philosophic society to try to lure, brainwash and exploit members.
"It is an organization with medical, social and ethical practices that are dangerous and harmful," Judge Constandia Angelaki wrote in her ruling. "It claims to act freely so as to draw members who subsequently undergo ... brainwashing by dictated ways of thinking that limit reaction capabilities."
Angelaki ruled on the case on Dec. 20 but the verdict was officially issued Thursday.
The move followed numerous complaints from relatives of members of the church, which operated here as the Center of Applied Philosophy in Greece. They claimed the center transformed their kin into moody or suicidal automatons.
Center President Katerina Diamantara refused to comment, referring all questions to the Church of Scientology International. Its president, Heber C. Jentzsch, criticized the case in a letter faxed from Los Angeles.
"The case is a sham," Jentzsch wrote. "It is unfortunately reminiscent of the former junta that ruled Greece as a totalitarian state and the assault today is simply because the mission is not `orthodox' according to the prevailing vested interests in Greece." Scientologists have recently clashed with the German government, which claims the U.S.-based church is a moneymaking organization with traits of organized crime that threaten democracy.
Last month, Germany announced it would keep people linked to the group out of certain public jobs, such as counseling and teaching.