Monday, 14 May 2012

The Paris Church of Scientology will have tried really everything ...

In Paris on May 2, 2012, Scientology issued a press release alleging that former police officer Arnaud Palisson gave a training seminar in 2002 that biased the judges who investigated the organized fraud case for which Scientology's conviction was upheld by the Paris court of appeal on February 2, 2012. The press release was published on the day Scientologists held a demonstration outside the National Magistrates School. The remarks about Arnaud Palisson drew upon a blog article he posted on February 7, 2012. Arnaud Palisson commented on Scientology's May 2 press release on May 8, 2012. Here is an unofficial translation:

Un vice de procédure via ce blogue ? L’Église de scientologie parisienne aura vraiment tout essayé…


A judicial procedural error via this blog?
The Paris Church of Scientology will have tried really everything ...


by Arnaud Palisson, May 8, 2012
(unofficial translation)

Having been harshly convicted by the Paris court of appeal last February, the Paris Church of Scientology is going all out to seek the annulment of the entire case at the Court of Cassation. In its latest attempt to gain traction, the church specifically referred to an article in this blog and elevated it into proof positive of a judicial procedural error. But the reasoning behind this is so far from reality that it quickly evaporates under scrutiny.

On Wednesday, May 2, the local Church of Scientology held a demonstration outside the Paris branch of the National Magistrates School (ENM). The Scientologists were protesting against a recurrent training seminar for judges that is organized in collaboration with the Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Sectarian Abuses (MIVILUDES). The ENM has hosted this initiative for nearly fifteen years now, and the Church of Scientology has a tradition of condemning it.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, it was under pressure from the church that, in 2002, ENM officials decided to stop inviting me to speak at this seminar.

So last Wednesday, about eighty Scientologists gathered outside the National Magistrates School on Île de la Cité with signs and slogans galore calling for MIVILUDES to cease its indoctrination of judges.

This was apparently nothing new under the Parisian sun, except perhaps that this year's demonstration took place three months after an important court decision had been rendered. On February 2, the Paris court of appeal upheld the most severe conviction ever delivered against French Scientology organizations, as legal entities, on charges of organized fraud and the illegal practice of pharmacy.

Over the months that preceded the appeal trial, the Scientology organizations in Paris engaged in countless media and legal actions to delay the inevitable and portray themselves as victims of religious persecution. Once the court of appeal's decision was announced, the church began carping about rampant mental manipulation in state institutions, the Justice Ministry in particular, of course. But the May 2 demonstration in front of the National Magistrates School also had a peculiar twist.

During this gathering, several Scientologists distributed copies of a press release that specifically refers to an article in this blog [link to an English translation]. Because the press release singled me out by name, I found myself being quoted in the newspaper article that Le Monde published about the demonstration [link to an English translation].

The problem is that both the Church of Scientology's press release and the article in Le Monde quote me as saying things I did not write.

The press release says:

    "During these sessions, instead of delivering training on an aspect of the law as it applies generally and equally to all citizens, the National Magistrates School indoctrinates judges to specifically prosecute religious or belief groups and their members who are stigmatized by MIVILUDES. It has been established that the Church of Scientology is cited by name and attacked during these training sessions. The 'information' provided to magistrates in these sessions is incomplete, totally biased, and often distorted. For the most part, the instructors are persons who are openly hostile to the Church of Scientology (...).

    "In October 2002, right in the middle of the investigation into the case currently pending before the Court of Cassation opposing the Spiritual Association of the Church of Scientology-Celebrity Centre and the public prosecutor (...), the magistrates received a training session conducted by a former Renseignements généraux (RG) police officer who is particularly hostile to the Scientology religion: Arnaud Palisson.

    "Scientologists suspected the judge who investigated the entire case of having participated in this 'training' and, accordingly, had asked her if this was indeed accurate, to avoid any problem regarding the impartiality of the judges involved in this case. She refused to answer. (...)

    "However, on February 7, 2012, five days after the decision by the court of appeal, Arnaud Palisson (the RG police officer) published an article in his blog that perfectly explains the role he played in connection with the investigating judge in this case: he not only provided three hours of training to the judge about the methods he advocated to obtain a conviction against Scientology, he also handed her a several hundred page document on how to achieve this, a document that, according to him, never left the judge's desk and served as the basis for the entire case currently pending before the Court of Cassation. (...)

    "The Church intends to assert its rights to a fair trial by denouncing this undue interference both in France as well as before international bodies for the protection of fundamental rights."

Take a close look at the reasoning here. According to the Church of Scientology:

  1. I am a notorious opponent of the Scientology religion, so anything I write or say about it is unfounded;
  2. During the October 2002 seminar at the National Magistrates School, I trained the investigating judge responsible for the Paris Celebrity Centre case on how to convict Scientology organizations in court;
  3. I personally handed her a copy of my thesis;
  4. Therefore, the investigating judge was misled by my conference and by my university writings;
  5. My thesis was not included in the investigation file, so the Church of Scientology-Celebrity Centre was unable to examine it;
  6. Consequently, since the judge investigated the entire case on the basis of my thesis, the whole preliminary investigation is marred by irregularities; the Court of Cassation will have to quash the judgment delivered on February 2 by the Paris court of appeal on the grounds of a procedural error.

Let us see what the reality is:

1 - I am not hostile toward the Scientology religion

It is very inaccurate of the Paris Church of Scientology to portray me as "particularly hostile to the Scientology religion." In fact, I wrote in the conclusion of my doctoral thesis (p. 521) that:

    "Under public law, Scientology can - and should - therefore be considered a religion. (...)"

The public relations department of the Paris Church of Scientology cannot claim ignorance of this particular passage in my thesis because a lawyer for the organization explicitly referred to it in a 2002 document (page 2) denouncing my university writings:

    "Mr. Palisson acknowledges on page 521 of his thesis that Scientology is a religion. (...)"

In other words, I believe we have the right to think whatever we please (freedom of religion - an element of freedom of thought - is absolute), but we don't have the right to do whatever we please, because one person's freedom ends where another person's freedom begins.

2 - At the National Magistrates School, I did not train the investigating judge responsible for the Celebrity Centre case
After reading my article on this blog, the Church of Scientology concluded that I "provided three hours of training to the investigating judge about the methods that [­I] advocated to obtain a conviction against Scientology."

But this is doubly wrong.

  1. My three-hour seminar mostly consisted of a presentation about the Church of Scientology (history, dogma, practices, ...). The rest was not about methods I advocated to obtain convictions against Scientology organizations, but about the procedural difficulties that judges and police who investigate these organizations might encounter. I have a copy of this presentation available for judicial purposes, if necessary.
  2. The investigating judge did not attend this seminar at the National Magistrates School in 2002. Precisely to avoid any suspicion of partiality.

It immediately follows that:

3 - I did not hand a copy of my thesis to the investigating judge

In fact, I wrote in my blog article:

"On this occasion, I forwarded copies of my thesis to two judges. One was Belgian and he was investigating an important Scientology case; the other was French and she was investigating the huge Church of Scientology-Paris Celebrity Centre case"

But neither of these judges was present at the seminar - in fact, I've never met them - so I could not have handed them a copy of my thesis. I forwarded, in other words, I sent them a digital copy of my document, which I provided to third parties who were asked to deliver it to them.

I don't actually know if these judges received their copy in this manner ... or some other way.

4 - My thesis has been freely available since early 2002

The Church of Scientology strangely forgets to mention two crucial facts:

  1. At the time of the training seminar for judges, several copies of my doctoral thesis had already been freely available for months in the library of Cergy-Pontoise University (where I completed my thesis). Through a simple inter-university loan, it was easy to obtain a copy in Paris.
  2. Four weeks after my seminar at the National Magistrates School (on November 13, to be exact), my doctoral thesis became freely available in full on the Internet.

In short, whether or not I forwarded a copy of my thesis to the judge who was investigating the case at that time is a false problem. She could have chosen to obtain this university document freely in at least three different ways.

5 - The imaginary violation of the principle of contradictoriality

In criminal law, whenever a party wants to produce a document or testimony, that party must give advance notice to the other parties. This is to allow the opposing party to prepare its arguments in response to the new evidence. This is called the principle of contradictoriality.

When a case is the subject of a preliminary investigation, it is the investigating judge who ensures that the principle of contradictoriality is respected by appending new information to the case file. The lawyers who represent the parties and have access to the file can thus familiarize themselves with these additional elements.

The principle of contradictoriality therefore serves to ensure that all parties effectively know about any new information.

According to the Church of Scientology's press release:

"This document is not in the case file, and this is completely illegal and violates the rights of the defense. (...) [It] never appeared in the file, thus depriving the defense of all its rights and plunging the incriminated Scientologists into a Kafkaesque trial in which key evidence remained hidden from the defendants."

Who are they trying to fool? It is precisely because my thesis was available in full on the Internet in November 2002 that Scientology's lawyers in this case pressured the office of the Interior Minister in a vain attempt to obtain its withdrawal from the Internet.

The publication of my thesis on the Internet also gave me the opportunity to meet with one of the Church of Scientology's lawyers, François Jacquot, about this matter. It happens that I had known him personally for several years because we both graduated from the Master of Advanced Study program in criminal sciences at the University of Nancy II, class of 1993. In 1993-94, we were both teaching assistants for second-year undergraduate judicial law students at Nancy II.

It is trivial to prove that Scientology's lawyers knew about the content of my thesis since, in December 2002, in a letter to the Minister of Education:

A counter-analysis of these, to say the least, whimsical arguments can be found here.

I would add that, in the minds of Scientology officials, an investigating judge has no right to read freely available academic literature. Unless the judge includes them in the case file. But my doctoral thesis:

  • was produced only from open source information
  • has never been considered as proof, as evidence, or as testimony. It is not mentioned in the statement of findings in the decisions of the Paris correctional court or of the court of appeal.

Why should it have been included in the case file?

It is therefore evident that, in this matter, the principle of contradictoriality has in no way been violated.

6 - The entire case is not null and void

According to the Church of Scientology, the entire case is invalidated because:

  • I supposedly trained the judge "who investigated the entire case" of the Celebrity Centre;
  • My thesis supposedly was "the basis for the entire case currently pending before the Court of Cassation."

But the reality is different. In fact, between 1989 and 2008 (when the case was sent to the correctional court), four investigating judges succeeded one another at the helm of this case. And I trained none of the four.

Moreover, if my approach to organized fraud inspired the judges, they did not follow all my advice to the letter. For example, I recommended invoking the laws concerning the illegal practice of medicine, but the investigating judges opted instead to focus on the illegal practice of pharmacy. I also advocated laying charges of fraud based on consumer law in connection with the sale of electrometers, but the investigating judges chose not to pursue this.


If one is to believe the account put forward by the Paris Church of Scientology, I am the sole architect of the organization's defeat at the Paris correctional court and at the court of appeal. The church gives me too much credit. It forgets the perseverance of the successive investigating judges. It forgets the painstaking work by investigators over many years.

While there is little doubt that my thesis allowed a strategic reorientation of the litigation and gave investigators important keys for deciphering the operation of Scientology orgs, this was very little compared to the long and meticulous investigative and legal work. And if I showed the way, I did it without presenting any secret information, in a completely transparent manner, so that everyone can find out about it.

Furthermore, if an investigating judge reads my thesis, this does not mean ipso facto that he or she will consider my writings as gospel. An investigating judge is basically an expert in criminal law. He or she is qualified to judge if what I write is true or false. In sum, to suggest that I indoctrinated the investigating judge is quite simply grotesque.

In any case, the magistrates of the bench at the Paris correctional court and court of appeal did not need:

  • three hours of training from me at the National Magistrates School
  • or to read my thesis

to render a decision against two Scientology organizations that imposes the most severe conviction ever delivered against legal entities for organized fraud and the illegal practice of pharmacy. Those who demonstrated last Wednesday can therefore rest assured that the French justice system still has its freedom of thought and action. The Paris Scientology organization has experienced the consequences of this firsthand.

It is understandable that the Scientologists in Paris are desperately trying to save their church from the disastrous coverage it receives in the media and from public condemnation. But this must not be done using arguments contrary to established facts.

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