Ex-leader of church convicted (12 Scientologists given lesser terms)

The Associated Press/November 1996

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 correct'."

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 were charged.

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.

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