Russian court shuts down Scientology center in St. Petersburg: prosecutors

Moscow, Russia - A Russian court has ordered a center operated by the Scientology movement in St. Petersburg to be shut down, city prosecutors said Thursday, after accusing the organization of unlicensed teaching and other activities.

The St. Petersburg City Court ordered the Scientology center closed after it agreed with prosecutors who said the center's operations were violating its charter.

"The center was engaging in 'auditing' and 'purification' activities," prosecutors said in a statement. "Such practices were advertised by the organization as healthcare services. However, the organization did not hold a license for this."

The center also perform tests on people who came to the center — tests that were aimed at enrolling new members, prosecutors said.

Scientology officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Los Angeles-based movement — which calls itself the Church of Scientology — was founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems.

It, however, has struggled for acceptance in many European countries. The German government views it as a threat to democracy, and France lists Scientology among groups that should be closely monitored for cult activities.

The organization operated in Moscow legally from 1994-97, when a change in the law required all religious groups to get reregistered. Scientology officials have said they have tried to re-register repeatedly since then but have been either ignored or refused.

In April, Europe's human rights court ruled that Moscow city authorities infringed on the group's rights of by repeatedly refusing to register it.