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The Belgian branch of the Church of Scientology went to trial in Brussels on Monday, facing charges of fraud and extortion in the wake of investigations into the church’s fundraising and recruitment practices.
According to The Guardian, the country launched two investigations — one in 1997 and another in 2008 — looking into complaints about the church’s inner workings, as well as allegedly bogus job offers manufactured by the church to recruit new members.
Eleven members of the Belgian branch and two affiliated bodies are facing the charges, which also include running a criminal organization and violating the right to privacy. A conviction, according to The Guardian, could lead to a ban on Scientology in Belgium. Scientology is reportedly not recognized as a faith in Belgium.
During Monday’s court proceedings, prosecutors asked a former treasurer for the church how the organization received its funding. She said the church’s revenues were approximately $5,518 a week, which came from courses, training, and the sale of books and videos.
“The Church of Scientology goes to court with the firm intention of seeing the fundamental rights of its Belgian members finally recognized,” a Scientology spokesperson told The Guardian.
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