On March 11, 2016, the criminal court of Brussels threw out a case that involved a dozen Scientologists, the Belgian Church, itself, and the European office of the Church of Scientology International that could have seen Church of Scientology banned as a “criminal enterprise” after a judge said the defendants were targeted because of their religion.
At the time, the judge criticised the investigators who were involved in an 18-year inquiry into Scientology in Belgium, saying the law enforcement officials and Belgian intelligence officers that carried out the investigation acted out of prejudice and the case brought against the Scientologists was based on vague accusations that were obviously based on targeting the religion.
“The prosecutor constructed his charges based on his own interpretation of Scientology scriptures, contravening just about every internationally recognised human rights standard that protects the right to religious freedom”.
The prosecution had called for the Church entities to be disbanded, and prison terms for the parishioners on trial for fraud, extortion, running a criminal enterprise, violating privacy, and the illegal practice of medicine.
Having heard the case, however, the court acquitted all of the defendants, while the Presiding Trial Court Judge found that “the entire proceedings are declared inadmissible for a serious and irremediable breach of the right to a fair trial” and criticized Belgian law enforcement for violating the rules of the presumption of innocence and objectivity – both which are enshrined in Belgium’s legal statutes law and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
“In the present case, as stated above, the Prosecution intended primarily to have the very doctrine of Scientology developed by Mr L. Ron Hubbard tried in Court, the prosecuted defendants in this perspective being the only the necessary to link up the charges considered embedded in Scientology teachings,” the court’s ruling stated.
During the seven weeks of hearings, Professor Marco Ventura, one of the top international experts in the field of Law and Religion, testified that Scientology was a genuine religion, recognised as such everywhere in the world, that its practices were not to be understood out of the frame of the religious field, and that it deserved to be treated with the same approach than any other religion.
For Scientologists, the court victory was the end of a struggle for survival in Belgium and the start of a new existence in the country.