Scientology on Trial in Belgium: II
We are about half-way through the trial of the Church of Scientology Belgium and 12 individuals, Scientologists or former members.
Last week, while the prosecutor proposed relatively mild sanctions against the individual defendants, he wanted the death sentence for the Church itself: dissolution. Scientology, he argued, is a criminal organisation – and because of the way its founder set it up, it could only ever operate that way.
But over the next two weeks, some of Belgium's top lawyers will stand before the court to explain why the whole case should be thrown out; why any suggestion of shutting down the Church is a violation of its followers must fundamental rights.
They will defend the individual defendants, certainly: but the real battle here is to save the Church itself.
If Scientology as an organisation is convicted here, even if the court chooses not to follow the prosecutor's recommendation to shut it down, he judgment would send a legal shockwave well beyond Belgium's borders.
It is vitally important then, to follow the arguments right to the end.
Quite apart from the principle of balanced coverage, there is a lot at stake in the debate unfolding here so it is vital to be clear about both sides of the question.
I have been offering in-depth court reports from the first day of the trial here at Byline: I will continue to tweet developments in between court sessions (@jonnymcj). And when time permits I will take a step back to offer analysis and a little background over at Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker.
But with two weeks of solid coverage to come in Brussels, my funds are going to run out. So I'm asking for another $1,200 to get me to the end of the trial.
I've set the bar there because that's what I need to cover my expenses. If you want to actually pay me for writing, you can pledge me a monthly sum over at this part of the website, or just chip in here.
I still haven't got the hang of this video thing, so here's an audio appeal I recorded instead.
(Photo of Brussels court interior courtesy of Jean Housen, Creative Commons licence)