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Media Articles - 1980s

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Judge orders Scientology leader jailed

By Stephen Koff

St. Petersburg Times
November 24, 1988

Scientology's leader was ordered jailed without bail in Spain on Wednesday pending possible charges of engaging in criminal acts. If convicted, he could face more than 30 years in prison, officials said.

Heber Jentzsch, 53, president of the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology International, was interrogated by Judge Jose Maria Vasquez Honrubia.

The judge ordered that Jentzsch and 10 other church members be held pending possible charges including illicit association, coercion, fraud, labor law violations, tax evasion and flight of capital, officials said.

Bail "won't be allowed in this case," said Helga Soto, a spokeswoman at the Spanish Embassy in Washington.

Foreign reporters said Vasquez Honrubia told the Scientologists they could appeal the bail to higher courts, but "this process could last months or even years."

The judge also ordered $1.75-million of the church's assets frozen pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

Scientologists immediately protested Vasquez Honrubia's actions and said they would sue, claiming the judge acted illegally.

The Spanish raid on Scientology, which has its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, was the culmination of a 9-month investigation involving 30 wiretaps and searches of church offices in seven Spanish cities.

Police on Sunday detained 70 church members who had come from 15 countries to attend a Scientology conference in Madrid. But in the next three days 59 of those arrested were released - 11 with orders to leave Spain because they were "undesirable aliens."

Two of those deported were Americans, said Bob Meade, press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. One other American, identified as Gerald T. Finn, was ordered held along with Jentzsch, who lives in Los Angeles, Meade said.

However, foreign press reports listed the other arrested American as Tim Gerald Thomas, 42, of Boston.

Spain's investigation of Scientology focused on two of the group's divisions - the Civil Dianetics Association and Narconon. Dianetics is the title of church founder L. Ron Hubbard's 1950 book that established the movement, and Narconon is a Scientology drug rehabilitation program based on megavitamins and saunas.

Hubbard, who died in 1986, wrote that counseling with a lie- detector-like device called an "E-Meter" could rid individuals of deep-seated psychological problems.

But Vasquez Honrubia told reporters that Scientology's operations were "similar to a pyramid scheme" to make money and recruit new members to make even greater profits.

Similar allegations have been made in lawsuits and criminal cases in the United States and Canada. In Spain, the judge said, the church turned a profit of $660,000 in 1986, even though it was supposed to be a not-for-profit organization.

The seriousness of the charges could mean Jentzsch's spending more than 30 years in prison if convicted, officials told United Press International (UPI).

As he was taken to face the judge, Jentzsch told reporters that he was the victim of "the new Spanish inquisition."

Soto of the Spanish Embassy responded that Jentzsch was forgetful of historical facts. "First of all, I think we have to be very careful about history and accusations," she said. "And second of all, we have charges of tax evasion and flight of capital."

Richard Haworth, a Scientology spokesman handling press inquiries in the United States, did not return several phone calls Wednesday.

Earlier this week Haworth told the St. Petersburg Times, "Whoever is behind these actions stands to profit by increasing the drug proliferation and addiction expansion."

In Spain, Edith Buchele, the church's chief officer for international affairs, said that the International Criminal Police Organization - Interpol - was responsible for sending false criminal reports about Scientology, UPI reported.

Critics of Scientology said the charges against Jentzsch could affect church operations throughout the world. They said the church's retention of the international public relations firm Hill & Knowlton was consistent with a tradition of taking the offensive.

For instance, they said, Tuesday night Haworth appeared on a Fox television network newscast in Los Angeles. He had Jentzsch's 4-year-old son at his knee.

According to several people who saw the broadcast, Haworth said, "This boy doesn't have a daddy tonight."

"That's the policy - to attack," said Jerry Whitfield of Los Angeles, who in the 1970s was vice president of public relations for Narconon.

Bent Corydon, author of the controversial 1987 book L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?, said, "I think they're in some trouble, and I think they're somewhat in a panic. . . .

"There will be people flying in (to Spain) from all over the world. They'll spend millions of dollars."