MOSCOW (AP) – A Court in a Moscow suburb has banned works by the founder of the Church of Scientology, officials said Thursday.
The Shchyolkovo court ruled that “What is Scientology?” and other books by L. Ron Hubbard “contain calls for extremist activities,” the Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement.
It said that once the court decision comes into force, Scientology books will be put on the federal list of extremist materials banned for release throughout Russia. The court made the ruling following a request by local prosecutors.
A court in the Siberian city of Surgut had earlier made a similar decision, but then overturned it.
Scientology officials said they would protest the decision.
“There have been many legal violations, the case is unfounded and the trial was hasty,” the group’s attorney Sergei Korzikov told The Associated Press. “We could not defend our legal interests.”
The group’s spokesman in Russia, Yuri Maximov, said that Russia is home to “tens of thousands” of Scientology devotees. Russian media have claimed that some powerful businessmen and officials are among Scientology adepts.
Russia’s dominant Orthodox Church has denounced Scientology as a “totalitarian sect,” and in 2007, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Moscow city authorities infringed on the group’s rights by repeatedly refusing to register it.
Hubbard, a science fiction writer, founded the Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology in 1954. It teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems.
The group claims 10 million members around the world, including film stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Belgium, Germany and other European countries have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for labeling Scientology as a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations and monitor its activities.