FRENCH COURT CONVICTS SCIENTOLOGY OFFICIALS - 1996-11-23
A court convicted the Church of Scientology's former leader in France today of manslaughter in the suicide of a former adherent and gave him a stiffer prison sentence than requested by the prosecution.
The verdict, in the southeastern city of Lyon, was praised here as a major victory in France's fight against Scientology, which the government labels a sect. Fourteen other defendants were convicted of fraud-related charges in the same judgment and given suspended sentences. Eight were acquitted.
It is "extremely significant" that the judge sentenced Jean-Jacques Mazier to 18 months in prison and 18 months of a suspended sentence after the prosecution had asked for three years' suspended sentence, said Marie Geneve, president of the Paris-based Center Against Mental Manipulation. "It's the proof that the magistrates are beginning to grasp the importance of the problem." Mazier also was ordered to pay $100,000 in fines.