Scientology Spying Spurs Jail Term
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) _ A German official was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence Tuesday by a Swiss court for attempting to spy on the Church of Scientology for German intelligence.
The German agent, operating under the alias Peter Goller, was arrested in Basel in April after meeting with two Swiss women, from whom he was suspected of trying to solicit information on the church.
The Basel criminal court found the 41-year-old agent guilty of carrying out ``illegal business for a foreign state.″ The one-day trial took place under heavy security and was preceded by an anonymous bomb threat.
Germany has kept Scientology under domestic surveillance and denies it religious status. It contends that Scientology, which has branches both in Basel and Freiburg, engages in coercive activities and is out to bilk its members.
The agent, a former employee of Baden-Wuerttemberg state’s domestic intelligence surveillance arm, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, has returned to regular police service in Freiburg, Germany.
One of the two women he met, Odette Jaccard, received a 10-day suspended sentence for collecting Scientology members’ names in Switzerland and passing them to German intelligence services.
Germany apologized to Switzerland for the incident.
The third person at the meeting _ local lawmaker Susanne Heller, who said she tipped authorities off _ appeared as a witness. The German agent was suspected of soliciting her help in collecting information on the church.
The U.S. government, which has extended Scientology tax-free status as a religion since 1993, has criticized Germany’s treatment of the Scientologists.
The organization, which claims 8 million members worldwide, has mounted an advertising campaign denouncing German government treatment of its 30,000 adherents, such as banning them from public jobs.