Scientologists in Germany launch legal crusade to end observation

Associated Press, Apr. 2, 2003
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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The German branch of the Church of Scientology has launched a legal battle aimed at declaring the organization’s continued surveillance by German security agencies unconstitutional, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Scientologists filed a suit at a state court in Cologne against Germany’s federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, declaring the continued monitoring of Scientologists illegal. A similar lawsuit was filed in against state authorities in Berlin Monday.

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All but one of Germany’s 16 states have been monitoring the Scientologists since June 1997, on suspicion of being a religious cult with purely economic interests that poses a danger to the democratic political order by trying to infiltrate governments and companies.

The Scientologists insist, however, they are a religious organization and claim surveillance is “politically motivated, based on no facts, and abuses Scientologists’ rights to freedom of religion and belief.”

Sabine Weber, a spokeswoman for the Scientologists said the organization hopes a victory in the Cologne case against the federal agency will be precedent-setting. The Berlin suit was filed after a court there ruled in favor of Scientologists in a 2001 case forbidding state officials from planting informants in the church.

It was not clear when either case would be heard, she said.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday criticized Germany in its Human Rights Report 2002 for continuing to monitor the Church of Scientology despite security officials’ acknowledgment that there is no evidence of illegal activity.

Scientology claims about 6,000 members in Germany, a country of about 82 million people.

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