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Turin police raid Scientology chapter

Sect suspected of inappropriately using sensitive personal data

20 May, 13:45
Turin police raid Scientology chapter (ANSA) - Turin, May 20 - Police raided a local Scientology chapter here and discovered a hidden archive which contained not only information on the group's members but also on the sect's 'enemies', the Turin daily La Stampa reported on Thursday.

Police were acting on a warrant issued by magistrates who have opened a probe into the religion which is suspected of violating laws governing the handling of personal information.

According to La Stampa, police searched the chapter on Via Bersezio for some nine hours and in the basement, behind a locked door, found the sect's secret archive which had files on magistrates, policemen, journalists and relatives of former members. La Stampa said magistrates were now examining these documents which were "chock full" of sensitive information dealing with sexual habits, health and political inclinations.

In 2000, the Italian supreme Court of Cassation recognised Scientology as a religion but said it was organised as a business and thus subject to taxation.

Member are said to pay high fees for counseling or 'auditing' to advance through the religion's various 'levels'.

Scientology has been at the center of controversy because of its nature as a sect, which has led to accusations of fraud, and many countries do not qualify it as a religion.

Aside from charging high fees to its members, Scientologists have drawn criticism for aggressively reacting to critics and their opposition to psychiatry, which they consider to be destructive and abusive and say should be outlawed.

Scientology, which claims to focus on spiritual rehabilitation, was founded in the early 1950s by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and evolved out of his self-help program Dianetics.

Despite its controversy, it has drawn a number of high-profile celebrities including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta and musicians Isaac Hayes and Chick Corea.

photo: Scientology's VIP spokesman Tom Cruise

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