20:50 GMT29 November 2020
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    A Belgian court has acquitted the Church of Scientology's local branch of criminal charges on grounds of poor persecution proceedings, local media reported Friday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Judge Yves Regimont described the persecution's accusations as "incomplete, inaccurate and inconsistent," the RTBF public broadcaster reported.

    Investigators, who had been probing the church fore nearly 20 years, were criticized by the judge for seeking to persecute the religious organization for its doctrine rather than pursuing to indict the church or its members on specific criminal charges, according to the broadcaster.

    Eleven members of the US-based church had been accused of fraud, extortion, and illegal medical practices, as well as running a criminal organization and violating privacy laws. The persecution had previously been seeking a complete ban on the church's Belgian branch. Charges against the church as an organization were dropped in 2015 as the church's European office is not a legal entity.

    The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in the United States. Since its inception, the church as faced a number of criticisms and has been accused of being a cult and a commercial venture, as well as of harassing those perceived as its enemies.

    While gaining an official religious status in some countries, other countries have classified the organization as a cult and a sect. In late 2015, a Moscow court banned the local branch of the church on grounds of non-compliance with the federal law on the freedom of religion.


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