LYON, France - A former Church of Scientology leader was convicted
Friday of involuntary homicide and sentenced to 18 months in prison
in the 1988 suicide of a church member.
Twelve other defendants facing lesser charges - theft, complicity
or abuse of confidence - were given suspended sentences of eight
to 15 months each. Charges were dropped against 10 others.
Jean-Jazques Mazier, the former head of the church in Lyon, France's
second-largest city, was also fined $100,000. The prosecution
had requested a three-year suspended sentence.
In a statement issued in Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology
International claimed victory for the acquittals and suspended
sentences but said the conviction was "a politically motivated
ruling from a politically pressured court that held a politically
motivated heresy trial." It said appeals would be pursued.
The church said that besides Mazier, 14 defendants were given
suspended sentences, and charges were dropped for eight. The
discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.
In Lyon, Scientology lawyer Olivier Metzner called the ruling
"a value judgment
to define the limits of what is 'religiously
Last month's trial centered on the March 1988 suicide of Patrice
Vic, 31, who jumped from a window to his death. The trial centered
around Vic's death, but its scope widened as investigators uncovered
evience of financial wrongdoing, and more Scientology officials
Prosecutors said Vic was under pressure from the church to take
a $6,000 "purification treatment" including daily sauna
treatments and a low-sugar, high-vitamin diet.
Vic was subjected to "psychological torture," the court
said in its 200-page ruling.
The signs of psychological distress manifested by Patrice Vic
should have led (Mazier) to treat his case with prudence and to
take the necessary precautions," the court said.