21 June 2016, 10:44
Searches underway in Moscow and St. Petersburg to suppress unlawful activities of Church of Scientology (updated)
St. Petersburg/Moscow, June 21, Interfax - Large-scale investigative measures concerning the activity of the Church of Scientology are underway in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Tuesday, a source in law enforcement agencies told Interfax.
"Large-scale investigative measures and searches are being conducted as part of efforts to suppress the unlawful activities of the Church of Scientology and as part of a criminal case opened on a count of 'illegal entrepreneurship'," he said.
These measures are being taken both in Moscow and St. Petersburg, he said.
Interfax has so far been unable to obtain official confirmation of the report.
The press service of the Russian Federal Security Service's branch for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region has declined to comment.
An eyewitness told Interfax that officers of law enforcement agencies had arrived at the main scientologists' office in Moscow, located in the city's Taganskaya Street.
A police bus is parked near the building, all entrances to the office have been blocked and worshippers and other visitors are not being allowed inside, he said.
It was reported that in November 2015, the Moscow City Court ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the Moscow branch of the Russian Justice Ministry seeking the closure of the Moscow Church of Scientology religious organization. The scientologists have been trying to appeal this decision at the Russian Supreme Court.
Justice Ministry officials said during the court session that the title 'scientology' was registered as a trademark and, consequently, the Moscow Church of Scientology could not be called a religious organization because it would violate Russia's law on religious organizations.
Moscow Church of Scientology representatives, for their part, asked the court to reject the Justice Ministry's lawsuit. They insisted that the closure of this religious organization would violate the rights of thousands of believers.
The judge then ordered the creation of a commission to close this religious organization within a six-month period following the enactment of the decision to remove information about the Moscow Church of Scientology from the list of religious organizations.
The Justice Ministry's Moscow branch concluded following a routine inspection in 2013 that the charter the organization had at that time did not meet the requirements of Russia's federal law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations and the organization's name did not offer any information about its form of incorporation or its faith.
The inspection also established that the word 'scientology' was registered as a trademark owned by the U.S. Center of Religious Technology, and the simultaneous use of this word as the name of a faith contravened the requirements of Article 28 of the Russian constitution.
A decision was made following the inspection of the activities of the Moscow Church of Scientology to conduct a state theological assessment, as a result of which the Moscow Church of Scientology was not recognized as a religious organization.
'Spying' devices - illegally installed acoustic microphones and video cameras, which are used to surreptitiously obtain information - were confiscated during a search at the Moscow Church of Scientology office on Taganskaya Street in mid-August.
A spokesperson for the Moscow branch of the Russian Investigative Committee, Yulia Ivanova, said later that a criminal investigation had been opened on a count of the illegal use of specialized technical equipment following the searches.
In 2007, the St. Petersburg City Court, acting at the request of the Prosecutor's Office, decided to shut down the Scientology Center public organization, which was also accused of illegal collection of information about people's private lives.
Scientology is a religious and philosophical movement founded by American science fiction writer Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in the United States in the middle of the past century. It is a system of faiths and practices composed of compilation of different quasi-scientific and religious ideas for people aspiring to success.
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