"Don't ever defend. Always attack..."
After more than two hours of close questioning from Judge Yves Régimont, Martin W*, a member of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs, now faced the prosecutor Christophe Caliman.
Caliman started by asking him about his current activities: was he doing the same thing or had he moved on to other activities? Martin explained that since 2006 he was no longer an active member of the Church. He currently lived in Britain.
That struck the prosecutor as strange, because documents filed to the court by the investigators had him as an active member of the Church of Scientology in Belgium.
“I was never an active member of the Belgian Church because have never been a member,” said Martin tersely: he had explained this to the judge several times already. It was not a trivial issue.
Already, Judge Yves Régimont had been testing his claim that he was only part of Scientology’s Office of Public Affairs in Brussels: that the two organisations were entirely separate. If it could be established that he had had some kind of executive role in the Church, then that might mean that, in the event of the Church being convicted, the liability for any criminal activity attached to the Church could be extended to him. (1)
“Do you still go to the European office?” the prosecutor asked. Since 2006, did he still have an office there? Martin said he did occasionally visit Brussels, but only to see his friends there.
Now Caliman referred to his files. “Can you help explain what this means?” he said.
He began quoting from a policy letter written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard on August 15, 1960: “The Dept. Govt. Affairs”. In this document, said the prosecutor, Hubbard was describing how to respond to attacks on the movement.
“And in this directive,” said the prosecutor, “it says that you have to –”
(1) Find out if we want to play the offered game or not, (2) If not, to derail the offered game with a feint or attack upon the most vulnerable point. which can be disclosed in the enemy ranks, (3) Make enough threat or clamor to cause the enemy to quail, (4) Don't try to get any money out of it, (5) Make every attack by us also sell Scientology and (6) Win.
If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace. Peace is bought with an exchange of advantage, so make the advantage and then settle. Don't ever defend. Always attack. Don't ever do nothing. Unexpected attacks in the rear of the enemy's front ranks work best.
Never put the organization on "wait" because of courts or other matters. (2)
Martin was not impressed. He was addressing the court in English and required a court-appointed interpreter to translate all the questions put to him from French back to English.
“In any case, this is a free translation of something. I need to study this before –” he said, before his lawyer, Maître Quentin Wauters, jumped in. In these conditions, said the lawyer, without the original version to hand, they were not in a position to answer any questions on the document.
Caliman pressed on regardless. Here was a shorter passage, he said, at the end of the same text:
The goal of the Department is to bring the government and hostile philosophies or societies into a state of complete compliance with the goals of Scientology. (3)
“I’m sorry,” said Martin,” but I need to see the document.”
“It is out of context," said his lawyer. "I could read extracts from the Bible or the Koran and produce the same effect."
Caliman looked sceptical. “For someone who occupies an important place in the OSA [Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs] this is a fundamental text for the OSA.”
It struck him as strange, he said, that Monsieur W. was not familiar with what appeared to be a key policy letter from Scientology’s founder.
“There are thousands of policy letters of Mr. Hubbard,” Martin replied. “I am not trying to be evasive. If I had the documents – I need to sit down and read them.”
The one thing that had jumped out from the previous passage, was the phrase ‘Don’t defend, always attack’, Martin added – “...and of course you have to defend if you are attacked. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
So Caliman tried him with another Hubbard text, this one a 1966 policy letter called “Attacks on Scientology”, in which Hubbard gave instructions on how to respond to the movement’s enemies.
This is correct procedure:
(1) Spot who is attacking us.
(2) Start Investigating them promptly for FELONIES or worse using our own professionals, not outside agencies.
(3) Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
(4) Start feeding lurid, blood, sex, crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.
“Does that ring a bell?” Caliman asked.
Maître Wauters stepped in once more for his client. Was this the whole text? No? “Then I ask you to withdraw it. It is out of context. I could read extracts from the Bible or the Koran and produce the same effect.”
The prosecutor Caliman agreed: context was everything, he said, and it would be only right to submit the whole document to the court. The judge took note.
Eventually the defendant, Martin W., was asked again if he wanted to respond. “I don’t even understand the question at this point,” he said. But he did remember parts of what had been read to him.
“Do I work like that? No. It is difficult for me to even understand what he is even talking about. It is a free translation of what he is talking about.”
As Judge Régimont had his clerk make a formal note of his answer, the defendant added: “But if he wants to give the reference to my lawyer, I can read it and give a response.”
The prosecutor however wanted to move on from theory to practice. He had what he thought was a practical application of the policy just cited, even if this particular example did not concern the defendant directly.
It was a June 6 1992 telex that investigators had turned up – presumably seized during the 1999 raid on Scientology’s offices. It was from the Central Europe Programs Chief OSA Europe, and concerned a Belgian deputy, Bertouille. (5)
Bertouille had bothered Scientology to the point that the OSA officer who wrote the memo wanted something called the ARM unit in place in Belgium to look into this deputy. (6)
The prosecutor seemed to be suggesting that Monsieur le député might have been investigated in the manner set out in the document he had just quoted – “the one Monsieur W. doesn’t remember,” Caliman added, rolling his eyes heavenward.
That was not what he had said, the judge pointed out. Caliman raised his eyebrows, but he did not press the point.
There was talk in this telex of “exposing the crimes” of the deputy concerned, said the prosecutor. So what he wanted to ask the defendant was this: was this kind of practical application of the texts he had just quoted ever part of his work? What was his view on this kind of practice?
“I have to say that I am at a great disadvantage,” said Martin. “I have not read that document. Not a single document has been translated for me apart from the réquisitoire (the indictment).
“That apparently is not addressed to me," he said of the telex, "and I am being asked for my opinion. That doesn’t concern me. What am I supposed to say about that? I need to sit down and study that.”
“Or you could read the text in the original," said the prosecutor. "That is no problem. The document is here.”
But the judge stepped in. “In any case, that doesn’t concern him.” Caliman did not press the matter. He turned instead to his next set of documents.
* While most of the defendants were not identified during the trial, Martin W. was one of a handle of Scientologists named in some media reports: the role he once played as a Church spokesman meant he was already a public figure. I am nevertheless adopting the same policy with all the defendants and respecting the general convention in the Belgian media, which is not to identify defendants before they have actually been convicted.
1) This issue became even more important a few weeks later when the prosecutor, in his closing argument, said he was dropping the charges against the European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights, the organisation for which Martin W. worked.
2) From the original, English text of “Dept of Govt Affairs” Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, August 15, 1960.
3) Op. cit.: from the original, English text.
4) “Attacks on Scientology”: Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, February 25, 1966. From the original English text.
5) This would be André Bertouille, who served in the 1990s a Liberal deputy. During a long political career he also served as a senator and as education minister. It was Bertouille, along with fellow liberal Jean Gol, who in February 1993 called for a committee of inquiry into the issue of cults. (See “L'État belge face aux dérives sectaires” Courrier hebdomadaire du CRISP, 2006/3, n° 1908).
6) A request for information on what the ARM unit might be produced the same response from a number of former members and specialists in the subject. ARM stands for the Anti-Religious Movement and the ARM unit is the team set up to deal with Scientology’s critics, who are seen as anti-religious activists. (Several Scientology websites describe Scientology’s critics as "anti-religious activists".) Garry Scarff pointed out that the same phrase crops up in another OSA telex from September 1995, this time in Greece. My thanks too, to Mark Fisher, Tony Ortega, Laura Dieckman, Caroline Letkeman and Mike Rinder, among others.
Photo: Palais de Justice, place Poelaert, Bruxelles, by Michel Wal, under a Creative Commons licence.