Russia: Scientology spiritual leader imprisoned in St Petersburg

Julian Kossoff
Church of Scientology

A court in Russia's second-largest city has ordered the spiritual leader of the city's branch of the Church of Scientology held in detention for two months.

Ivan Matsisky, was among five members of the church arrested during a raid on the organization's offices in St. Petersburg.

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They have been charged with participation in an extremist community, incitement of hatred and illegal business activities.

In recent years the organisation has faced a series of legal challenges in Russia. The Scientology Church of Moscow was disbanded, after a court found in November 2015 it was operating as a religious operation illegally.

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Police raided more than a dozen Scientology-linked properties in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in June 2016 as part of the investigation into alleged illegal business dealings by the group. Investigators claimed that church members had been engaged in money laundering and property fraud.

The Russian justice ministry registers religious organisations as well as NGOs, a requirement for them to operate.

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The Scientology church was founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and was accorded the status of religion there in 1993.

The European Court of Human Rights has previously warned that Russia has contravened the rights of scientologists in refusing to register the church in several regions.

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