Judge Jails Nine In Scientology Sweep
MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A judge ordered nine people jailed Tuesday as part of a fraud-and-forgery probe of the Church of Scientology. Three Americans, including the church’s president, were among 71 people arrested.
Judge Jose Maria Vazquez Honrubia said he was still questioning people arrested during a police sweep of alleged Scientology members on Sunday. The raid capped a nine-month investigation into complaints by Spaniards who said they had been bilked by the church.
Questioning of suspects was delayed two hours Tuesday after a bomb threat forced the evacuation of Madrid’s 21st District Court.
Vazquez Honrubia told reporters that of 71 people arrested, nine were ordered to prison pending further investigation and that 14 still were being held for questioning.
Another 47 were questioned and released, including six foreigners ordered expelled from Spain. The judge said it was still uncertain whether one other person arrested Sunday would be freed or imprisoned.
Spanish law allows examining magistrates to hold suspects up to 48 hours without charge. Judges can order suspects to prison if they feel further investigation is warranted.
Among those arrested Sunday was Heber Jentzsch, a Los Angeles resident, former Hollywood actor and current president of the controversial Church of Scientology International.
It was unclear whether Jentzsch was still held. A court clerk initially said Jentzsch was among those ordered to prison pending further investigation, but Vazquez Honrubia later said he had not yet questioned Jentzsch.
Jentzsch was among two other Americans arrested. The judge said people of 14 nationalities were seized.
Authorities said the 71 people were arrested during raids on a Madrid hotel, where the group was holding a meeting; the headquarters of Narconon, a drug rehabilitation program; and other programs associated with the Church of Scientology.
The raids took place after a nine-month police probe, during which wiretaps indicated the group was planning an international meeting in the city, the judge said.
He said the probe was prompted by complaints from Spaniards who said they had been swindled out of money through drug rehabilitation programs and other activities related to the Church of Scientology.
Vazquez Honrubia said charges that would be brought include fraud, illegal association, coercion, forgery of public documents, tax evasion and failure to meet social security payments.
Heroin use is widespread in Spain, particularly among the nation’s 18-to- 25-year-olds, 45 percent of whom are unemployed and have never held jobs.
A woman at the Los Molinos Narconon center in Madrid, said 60 people were undergoing treatment involving vitamins, exercise and counseling. The program costs $1,600 a month.
Spain’s annual per capita income is less than $8,000.
In a statement Monday in Washington, the Church of Scientology condemned the raid.
″Whoever is behind these acts of harassment obviously stands to profit from increased drug proliferation and addiction,″ the statement said.
Sylvia Standard, a church spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said Jentzsch is a former actor who appeared in the film ″Paint Your Wagon.″ She said he was elected president of the Church of Scientology International in 1982.
″He’s been very personally involved for years in drug rehabilitation,″ she said.
Litigation is pending against the organization in the United States, where it was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author whose books still are widely publicized. Hubbard, who wrote ″Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,″ died in 1986.
In 1984, the U.S. government began an investigation of Hubbard’s tax returns after the Internal Revenue Service said it suspected millions of dollars in church funds had been transferred to Hubbard to protect the church’s tax-exempt status and to avoid paying taxes.
Scientologists said the government conspired to harass the organization in violation of its religious freedom. The Supreme Court is considering the case.