Greek Scientologists to appeal court-ordered ban

Source: Reuters

ATHENS, The Reuters World Service via Individual Inc. : Greek Scientologists said on Tuesday they would appeal an Athens court decision banning their group, slamming their trial as ``a parody of justice.''

In the first Greek court decision against Scientologists, the Greek Center of Applied Philosophy (KEFE) was ordered to shut down for operating under false pretenses.

``KEFE will soon appeal this shameful decision,'' the group said in a statement. ``Thousands of Greek Scientologists were greatly surprised to see such a parody of justice in their country, where philosophy was born.''

The Athens court ruling obtained by Reuters last week said KEFE was granted a licence as a non-profit, public interest organisation but instead made money by charging newcomers for courses and making its members work for free.

It said the group also put people's mental and physical health at risk by using amateur psychology methods.

The Greek ban came after a group of celebrities protested to Chancellor Helmut Kohl in an open letter over what they said was discrimination against Scientologists in Germany.

Charges against KEFE were filed by the Athens prefect, whose office is responsible for issuing operating licences to various groups. Previous efforts by parents associations and the Greek Orthodox church to bring the group to trial were unsuccessful.

KEFE said the basis of the charges was a letter submitted to the prefect in 1995, signed by 4,250 citizens who demanded the group be shut down.

The court said it took into account testimony by the Greek Church and the Greek Parents Association, as well as doctors' opinions and personal experiences recounted by former KEFE members.

``The organisation's operation has proved that its goals are irrelevant to those initially stated,'' Judge Constantia Angelaki said in her 23-page ruling.

Scientology, founded in 1954 by U.S. writer L. Ron Hubbard, cannot be recognised as a religion in Greece, where the powerful Orthodox church allows only other major faiths.

On Friday the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles filed an application with the European Commission of Human Rights, accusing Germany of discriminating against its members.

Some 34 entertainment industry figures addressed a letter to Kohl, comparing German treatment of Scientologists with the Nazis' treatment of Jews in the 1930s.

It was printed as a full-page advertisement in the Paris-based International Herald Tribune.

The entertainers said they were concerned that Germany had organised boycotts of entertainers such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Chick Corea because of their religious beliefs.

Kohl dismissed the letter as ``rubbish.'' REUTER@ [01-28-97 at 10:04 EST, Copyright 1997, Reuters America Inc.]