Scientologist 'coached child to lie about sexual abuse'

Jan Eastgate to appear in Australian court charged with perverting course of justice after complaint to police

Guardian, UK/June 15, 2011

A senior member of the Church of Scientology is due to appear in court in Australia on Thursday charged with perverting the course of justice.

It is alleged that Jan Eastgate, 57, threatened and intimidated an 11-year-old girl into providing false statements to police. The case relates to an investigation into the alleged sexual assault of the girl in 1985 by her stepfather, a church member.

The girl - who cannot be named for legal reasons - said on Australian television last year that she was coached by Eastgate to lie to police and community services. She said Eastgate told her to deny any charges of sexual abuse.

The girl's mother made similar allegations against Eastgate. Both mother and daughter were members of the church at the time.

Eastgate is international president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a body founded by the Church of Scientology that campaigns against psychiatry, and has been awarded the church's freedom medal for promoting human rights. She is Australian, but lives in Los Angeles.

Eastgate has previously called the allegations against her "egregiously false".

Scrutiny of the Church of Scientology in Australia has been led by an independent senator Nick Xenophon, a member of the parliament's upper house. Xenophon has called for a judicial inquiry into the practices of the church.

"The widespread allegations of abuse and criminality are incredibly serious and warrant serious and immediate investigation," he said.

"Too many victims of Scientology have spoken out for this issue to be ignored any longer. A judicial inquiry would not simply identify any wrongdoing, it would also be able to look into whether that wrongdoing was systemic and organised," he said.

Xenophon accompanied the girl at the centre of the allegations to the police station when she made her complaint against Eastgate.

The Church of Scientology did not respond to a request to comment on the case.

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