Scientology Trial Begins in Spain

Accused of Infiltration, Injury to Public Health, and Labor Crimes

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MADRID, Spain, FEB. 6, 2001 ( The fourth section of the Provincial Court of Madrid has begun the trial of 17 members of the Church of Scientology.

The trial was postponed six times in recent months, due to the illness of defense counsel Manuel Cobo del Rosal, whose clients include Herber Jentzsch, world leader of Scientology. The attorney general´s office in Madrid is demanding 56 years imprisonment for Jentzsch, an American.

Jentzsch did not appear in the courtroom, however, so he will be tried in another session. The court preferred to try the rest of the accused and open a separate case against Jentzsch.

There is a demand for prison terms adding up to 36 years for the remaining 16 defendants. The Public Ministry accused them of crimes including illicit association against the public treasury, infiltration, injury to public health, threats, labor crimes, usurpation of functions, false accusation, and illegal arrest. Close to 150 witnesses will give evidence during this trial. Private accusations were withdrawn from the process after the victims received financial compensation.

According to the attorney´s provisional conclusions, the Scientology Church began to operate in Spain in 1976, with the creation of a series of centers, which are part of an international pyramid scheme. At the top of the pyramid is the Los Angeles, California-based Center of Religious Technology, from which drug-rehabilitation centers depend.

The doctrine of this cult, created by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1940s, and described in his book, «Dianetics,» conceives the human being as a «thetan,» composed of body and spirit. Dianetics, Hubbard said, enables practitioners to cure illnesses for which modern medicine has no answer. Scientology, meanwhile, promises to deliver man from his «engrams» so that he will have power over matter, energy, space, time and thought.

Officials say some of the accused committed crimes against public health by preparing prescriptions administered in Scientology´s drug-rehab centers, or narconones.

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