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Church: Asylum granted to German member of Scientology

November 9, 1997 GMT

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ A German member of the Church of Scientology has been granted asylum in the United States after telling a judge she would be subjected to religious persecution if she went back home, according to the church.

Few details were available in the case, which was reported in Saturday’s edition of The New York Times.

The unidentified woman was granted asylum by a federal immigration judge on Feb. 28, Kurt Weiland of the church’s international affairs supervisory board in Los Angeles said Saturday. He said he did not know why the information hadn’t surfaced for nine months.

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The Times said the woman’s lawyer, John Lund, and a church official confirmed the court action. Lund, an immigration lawyer from Tampa, did not return calls Saturday.

He told the Times the case was not part of any orchestrated effort by scientologists to underscore their dispute with the German government. Scientology is not recognized in Germany as a religion.

German officials consider it an extremist organization dedicated to bilking its parishioners of money and has barred members from membership in major political parties and placed the organization under surveillance.

Officials at the German Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Weiland said the 40-year-old woman, a computer specialist, asked that her name not be revealed. She was born in the Black Forest region of Germany and came to the United States in 1995, he said. She manages a small company in the real estate area on the East Coast.

The asylum process is closed to the public for the protection of asylum seekers, said Richard Kennedy, a spokesman for the Office of Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts.

He told the Times the decision of an immigration judge is final unless appealed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.