Scientology church appeals French fraud conviction

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Lawyers for the Church of Scientology asked a French court on Thursday to throw out the group's fraud conviction because they say the investigation and trial in the decades-old case had taken too long.

The defense submitted the argument to a Paris appeals court, which is reviewing the 2009 conviction of the church's French branch, its bookstore and six of its leaders. The group was accused of pressuring members into paying large sums for questionable remedies and using "commercial harassment" against recruits.

The group and bookstore were fined euro600,000 ($830,000). Four leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. Two others were fined.

While Scientology is recognized as a religion in the U.S., Sweden and Spain, it is not considered one under French law.

In the original complaint, a young woman said she took out loans and spent the equivalent of euro21,000 ($29,000) on books, courses and "purification packages" after being recruited in 1998. When she sought reimbursement and to leave the group, its leadership refused to allow either. She was among three eventual plaintiffs.

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