Dismissing a 14-year-old case against Rev. Heber
C. Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, the
Provincial Court in Madrid, Spain, today closed the book on a justice system
that persecuted religious minorities based on General Franco's edict of
"one thought -- one religion."
The Madrid Provincial Court dismissed all charges against Rev. Jentzsch at the request of the prosecutor, stating in its ruling today that he had committed no wrongdoing and therefore is acquitted of all charges brought by the public prosecutor. The prosecutor had determined that their was no merit for the accusations and requested the dismissal. Additionally, a $1 million bond deposited with the Court in 1988 was ordered to be returned to the Church, with interest that has nearly doubled the original amount.
This decision follows a seven-month trial and unconditional acquittal of a dozen Spanish members of the Church who had been accused of conspiring with Rev. Jentzsch.
Several U.S. Congressmen, including Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Representatives Benjamin A. Gilman of New York and Xavier Becerra of California, had condemned the prosecution as a clear case of religious discrimination.
"I am gratified that the Spanish government has dismissed this case," stated Rep. Gilman. "For too long, this matter has been a blight on our successes in extending religious freedom throughout the world. In the past few years, I appealed to the Spanish government to resolve this matter and am pleased that justice has finally been served."
The legislators were part of a group of international religious and human rights leaders who had urged an end to a case that had become an
embarrassment to Spain. But it was kept alive by a prosecutor who targeted Rev. Jentzsch, solely because of his prominent position in the Church of Scientology.
Prosecutor Carlos Ladron de Cegama's groundless case, which cost Spanish taxpayers an estimated $3.7 million, crumbled in December 2001 when the Madrid Court dismissed all charges against the defendants in a trial of Scientologists. Although Rev. Jentzsch had been named by the prosecutor in the same case, U.S. authorities were concerned that the charges against Rev. Jentzsch stemmed from religious intolerance and had no factual basis; they never served the Spanish court's subpoenas on him. Reservations about the motives of the Spanish prosecution against an American citizen were also conveyed in the U.S. State Department's annual country reports on human rights
Church officials say the original legal action was an
attempt to derail the growing popularity of Scientology in a country where
religious diversity had been squelched under the Franco regime. The first
action involving Rev. Jentzsch occurred in 1988 when he traveled to Spain
to address a gathering of Scientologists. The case became symbolic of the
clash between the old Spain and the new democratic Spain whose constitution,
adopted in 1978, has only now come into its own in guaranteeing freedom of
thought, speech and religion.
"Democracy won in Spain today," said Rev. Jentzsch. "It took 14 years to throw off the yoke of injustice, but now the new era of Spain that recognizes religious plurality has triumphed over the oppression of the old guard. This is a total victory for the Church of Scientology, and it is also a victory for all people of Spain to freely practice their religion, whatever it may be."
He added that the victory frees up resources to increase the Church's religious ministry and drug education campaigns. Scientologists, who are themselves 100% drug-free, actively work for a drug-free Spain by contributing to drug education and prevention efforts throughout the country.
Since the case began, the Church has achieved full tax exemption in the United States as a religious and charitable organization; religious recognition in Canada, Sweden and South Africa; religious recognition by the Supreme Court of Italy; and scores of other positive rulings by judicial and administrative bodies throughout the world.
The Scientology religion was founded by writer and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard. From one church established by Scientologists in 1954, the Church has grown to more than 8 million members in more than 150 countries. The Scientology religion holds that man is a spiritual being, that he is basically good, and is capable of spiritual betterment. For more information, visit www.scientology.org.