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Media Articles - 1980s

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Scientology leader still jailed in Spain; church charges 'persecution'

By Stephen Koff

St. Petersburg Times
December 10, 1988

With the president of the Church of Scientology and 10 members in a Spanish jail for a third week, the U.S.-based church has launched a public-relations campaign charging that a Madrid judge is violating Spanish and international law.

"This is a human-rights violation," said church spokesman Richard Haworth.

Dean Kelley, director of religious and civil liberties for the National Council of Churches, a U.S. group representing Protestant and Eastern Orthodox congregations, agreed. "The various charges brought against them were charges growing out of religious activities," he said.

But American authorities are not overly concerned.

"These people make a lot of charges," Bob Meade, press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, said of the Scientologists. "They have to prove these charges to the Spanish court."

Heber Jentzsch, 53, president of the Church of Scientology International, was imprisoned in Madrid Nov. 20 during a raid on Scientology centers throughout Spain. Judge Jose Maria Vazquez Honrubia initially jailed 71 church members but later released 60 after questioning. The remaining 11, including Jentzsch, of Los Angeles, were ordered held without bail pending an investigation into illicit association, tax evasion, fraud and fiscal charges.

The Church of Scientology has its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater and follows the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, author of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Followers use a polygraph-type device called an "E-Meter" to achieve a state of "clear."

Vazquez Honrubia said at a news conference after the arrests that the only god of the church is money, and he compared the church to a pyramid scheme in which members pay increasing sums of money. He said that Narconon, a church-linked drug-rehabilitation program, swindled its clients and lured them into Scientology.

Scientologists throughout the world have protested. Opera singer Julia Migenes appeared at a news conference in Madrid on Monday to denounce Jentzsch's imprisonment as "a great error." She said she had filed a formal complaint with the U.N. Human Rights Commission, asking the Geneva-based body to investigate the arrest and imprisonment of Jentzsch. Jazz pianist Chick Corea, another Scientologist, held a news conference in Madrid on Nov. 26 to denounce what the church is calling the "persecution" of Jentzsch.

Church spokesmen say that 7,000 cables, telegrams and letters have poured into Spanish government centers from supporters. The National Council of Churches, in an independent action, sent a telegram to Secretary of State George Shultz urging the United States to help gain a speedy release. The council is not passing judgment on Jentzsch's innocence or guilt but thinks he should be free until tried, Kelley said. He said that if Scientology was recognized as a religion in Spain - official recognition has twice been denied - some of the accusations against the church would have been invalid.

Scientology supporters and religious leaders' opinions are being met by strong criticism in Spain. Amid the "Free Jentzsch" protests, Vazquez Honrubia's Madrid District Court 21 has been "flooded" with calls from Spaniards who said they had been swindled by Narconon, the judge said. He said he planned to hand over the case to a court with national jurisdiction once he had completed compiling the results of his investigation.

Spanish magazines have reported that Vazquez Honrubia is being protected by an armed escort and has received threats of harm since jailing Jentzsch.

In the United States, Scientology spokesman Haworth has suggested that the arrests and raids on Narconon were motivated by "an undisclosed vested interest who is profiting from the proliferation of drug abuse in Spain." Narconon, which uses a regimen of megavitamins and saunas, claims to cure 80 percent of its participants of drug abuse and addiction, although that rate is disputed by American authorities and former Narconon employees.

Haworth also said that Vazquez Honrubia violated several laws in jailing the Scientologists. Based on an analysis by a law professor at the University of Alcaza in Madrid, the Scientologists this week delivered to newspapers a summary of alleged international and Spanish law violations. Included in the press packets were newspaper clippings on Spain's rampant drug problem and alleged corruption within Interpol, the international police organization. Scientologists have accused Interpol of orchestrating the Madrid arrests.

The Scientologists' charges against Vazquez Honrubia and Spanish police include:Failing to inform Jentzsch and the others of the reason for their arrests - they were from seven different countries but were told as agroup in Spanish, which some foreigners did not understand.

Entering and searching hotel rooms not listed on a search warrant.

Detaining individuals, including Gerald Thomas Finn, of Boston, without sufficient cause while reserving the right to bring future charges. The judge also accused Jentzsch of vague charges such as "fiscal" and "other" crimes, which is an arbitrary application of the law, the Scientologists said.

Meade, of the U.S. Embassy, said, "That's for his lawyers to determine in the courts."

Pablo G. Moreno, a Madrid lawyer currently at the University of Miami for graduate studies, said the Spanish system of justice operates differently from American courts. Vazquez Honrubia's function, he said, is similar to that of a prosecutor, and the Scientology case now is in a phase "more or less" similar to an American grand jury - but with the added element of prison for those who officials fear might flee.

When the case goes to trial after charges are formally brought, an independent three-judge panel will take over, he said.

Moreno said that if the detainees think they are improperly jailed, they can press criminal charges or sue the police and judge.

Immediately after the raid Scientologists said they would sue Vazquez Honrubia, but Haworth said Thursday, "There's been no action on our part in that direction."