14 December, 2001 - In a decision that destroys the entire rationale the German government uses to justify discriminatory measures against Scientologists, the Berlin Administrative Court today ruled that the government has no basis whatsoever to conduct surveillance of peaceful members of the Church of Scientology.

The Court held that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (OPC), Germany's domestic security service, has acted illegally and unconstitutionally. After four years of surveillance, there are no indicators of any activities by the Church or Scientologists to justify the spying measure. In an effort to support continued surveillance, the OPC had twisted the meaning of certain statements in Scientology literature and presented them out of context. The statements the OPC cited clearly referred to a striving for heightened awareness on a spiritual level, the court stated.

"The court has struck a decisive blow for democracy and human rights. Today's victory gives us the tool to dismantle the entire machinery of discrimination against Scientologists in Germany," said Leisa Goodman, Human Rights Director for the Church of Scientology International.

She added that, "OPC agents have been harassing Scientologists for four years, and have engaged in every dirty trick in the book. We congratulate the court for having the courage to defend the Constitution against the so-called Office for the Protection of the Constitution."

The U.S. State Department, several members of Congress, and many religious and human rights leaders have condemned the surveillance as a gratuitous intrusion into Scientologists' private lives and a gross abuse of human rights. The State Department noted in its International Religious Freedom Report on Germany, released in October, that the OPC "has been 'investigating' the Church of Scientology and Scientologists for approximately four years. During that time, there have been no prosecutions or convictions of Scientology officials in the country...."

Today's ruling applies to the state of Berlin, but is expected to strongly influence other states in ending surveillance.

Since the measure was implemented in June 1997, Scientologists have documented hundreds of human rights abuses against their members and a host of "dirty tricks" by the OPC. These include agents attempting to infiltrate churches, spreading false reports about Scientologists to their employers to get them fired, sowing dissension between church members in an effort to create turmoil within the Church, and even trying to bribe Scientologists to bear false witness against their fellow parishioners.

One notorious incident concerned Otto Dreksler, Chief of Operations of the Berlin police force and one of its most senior officers. The OPC incorrectly concluded that Mr. Dreksler belonged to the Church of Scientology, based on a report from an agent who turned out to be a former member of the notorious East German Secret Police, the Stasi. Although the agent's Stasi membership was known to the OPC, based on his evidence Mr. Dreksler was suspended from his job, his house, office, car and personal computer raided and he was subjected to social ostracism for a period lasting several months. Only after the Church sued the Berlin Interior Ministry in connection with the Dreksler incident, did the OPC capitulate and admit their error. Mr. Dreksler was later reinstated, and sued and won damages from the Berlin Interior Ministry.

In April 1998, Swiss authorities arrested an OPC agent who was caught illegally spying on members of the Church of Scientology in Switzerland. A Swiss court tried the agent on espionage charges and sentenced him to 30 days in prison for spying and falsification of documents, with two years probation. The court noted that his crime had harmed relations between Germany and Switzerland.

The ruling today is the latest in a series of significant victories for the Church of Scientology in Europe. Ten days ago, a Spanish court dismissed all charges against Scientologists in a case that dated back to 1984. In the last four years, Scientology has gained official recognition as a religion in Sweden, South Africa and Venezuela, and by the highest court in Italy.



This article reposted by Greg Churilov
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