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Scientology Case Judge Faces Probe

June 29, 2000 GMT

PARIS (AP) _ The organization that acts as a watchdog over French judges will investigate the handling of an inquiry into members of the Church of Scientology after evidence disappeared, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.

The announcement came a week after Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou said she believed fraud was involved in the disappearance of the dossiers. Her comments were based on a report by the General Inspection of Judicial Services.

Hundreds of documents disappeared in October 1998 in a case that had been opened in 1983 against 16 members of the Church of Scientology suspected of ``fraud and illegally practicing medicine.″

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The Justice Ministry said Thursday that it has asked the Superior Council of the Magistracy to investigate Judge Marie-Paule Moracchini, who has been handling the case. She risks possible disciplinary sanctions.

A Paris court decided in September to go ahead with the case against the Scientologists despite the disappearance of the documents.

The case stems from a complaint by a former Scientologist, Juan Esteban Cordero. He accused the Church of Scientology of ``progressive mental conditioning″ that led him to spend more than $177,000 on various Scientology-related courses.

The Church of Scientology contends that the failure to ``reconstitute the missing part (evidence) is imputable alone to public servants of the justice system.″

In France, Scientology is registered on a list of 173 groups to be tracked to prevent cult activity.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology claims 8 million members worldwide.