Russia Court Protects Scientology

Associated Press/May 18, 2001

Moscow -- A Russian court on Friday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors seeking to shut down a Moscow office of the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, a news report said.

Prosecutors had accused the Humanitarian Hubbard Center of tax evasion and conducting illegal business activities, the Interfax news agency reported. Moscow's northeastern circuit court upheld a Tuesday ruling rejecting the charges against the group, it said. The court declined to comment, and representatives of the Hubbard Center could not be reached Friday.

The case was among several filed against foreign-based religious groups in Russia in recent years, including a lengthy procedure against the Jehovah's Witnesses. Bowing to pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia's parliament in 1997 passed a law restricting activities of religious groups not considered ``traditional'' in Russia.

The law guarantees the rights of Jewish, Muslim and Orthodox churches as main religious faiths of the country, and requires strict registration rules for all others.

Prosecutors moved against the Hubbard Center in 1999 because names that appeared on registration documents were found to have no relation to the center. The center said it corrected the documents.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

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