By Pierre-Antoine Souchard, Associated Press, 7/30/2002 15:55
PARIS (AP) A Paris judge has ruled that a 13-year-old case against the Church of Scientology alleging fraud and illegal practice of medicine cannot go to trial because the statute of limitations has expired, a judicial official said Tuesday.
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Judge Colette Bismuth-Sauron ruled Friday that there was a lack of progress in the investigation and rejected the case on procedural grounds, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The criminal probe into 16 leaders of the church was opened in 1989 after a criminal complaint was filed by a former Scientologist, Juan Esteban Cordero. He accused the group of ”progressive mental conditioning” that led him to spend more than $167,000 on Scientology-related courses.
However, in 1998, hundreds of documents that were to be used as evidence in the case disappeared from the Justice Ministry.
The judge handling the case at that time, Marie-Paule Moracchini, was taken off the case. An investigation into her role failed to shed any light on what happened to the files.
The charges carry a three-year statute of limitations.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Olivier Morice, said he would appeal.
A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, Agnes Bron, said the church was ”overjoyed.” The church ”believes it is now time to end this witch hunt,” she said.