The Church of Scientology vs. the Net(herlands)

This page created by Ron Newman.
Last revised on March 12, 1996; a few links updated on March 23, 1997.

Karin Spaink & co. win, CoS loses in Netherlands

Karin Spaink reports that the Dutch defendants won a total victory in their court case on March 12, 1996. See Karin's home page for the latest information (and a page that is kept much more up-to-date than this one).

The raid on XS4ALL, a Dutch Internet service provider

On Tuesday, September 5, 1995, Scientology agents, accompanied by a locksmith, local police, and two U.S. `computer experts', entered the premises of XS4ALL (, an Internet service provider in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Dutch law provides stronger protection than US law, so Scientology did not search any computer files at XS4ALL and did not seize any equipment. They did, however, write down the serial numbers of all equipment in the XS4ALL office in preparation for a possible suit seeking to seize XS4ALL's assets. For more information, read XS4ALL's official press release, issued later that day.

Scientology complained that an anonymous remailer at XS4ALL was used to transmit their copyrighted documents, but they seemed much more upset about the presence of the FACTnet information kit, which was then on the XS4ALL web server at The kit remained on the server for many months after this (though it has subsequently been taken down), and XS4ALL remains in full operation; however, the maintainer of the FACTnet kit `voluntarily' removed one file, a copy of the Fishman affidavit, after Scientology's visit to XS4ALL.

XS4ALL claims that after Scientology's `visit' was over, a snail-mail letter addressed to an XS4ALL staff member was missing from XS4ALL's office. The writer of that letter received a telephone call from Scientology less than an hour after the `visit' ended. See XS4ALL's second official statement, issued September 6, 1995.

This event received extensive press coverage in the Netherlands, in both print and online media. It was also covered by two different Dutch national TV shows during September. XS4ALL has created its own web page containing pointers to many of these articles, both in the original Dutch and in English translation.

Dutch Internet users respond with civil disobedience

Outraged by the attack on XS4ALL, Dutch Internet users responded by putting copies of the Fishman Papers on web sites all over the Netherlands; there were over 100 such sites at one point. One of these belongs to well-known Dutch writer Karin Spaink; another, at one point, belonged to Oussama Cherribi, a Liberal Party member of the Dutch parliament.

Scientology sues famous writer and four ISPs...

Scientology's answer to this mass cyber-civil-disobedience was to sue Spaink and four Dutch Internet service providers: XS4ALL, Cistron, Dataweb, and DDS (Digital City, a Freenet associated with XS4ALL). Here's the summons, both in the original Dutch and in English translation. A fifth provider, Planet Internet, subsequently asked to be added to the suit as an additional defendant. Planet Internet's two largest shareholders are Royal Dutch Telecom and Wegener, a company which also owns the Netherland's largest newspaper, De Telegraaf. Planet Internet's move brings big guns into the fight on the side of the Netizens and their service providers.

A court session in this case was set for December 14, 1995 The defendants prepared for the case by generating a lot of publicity, including bringing Steve Fishman himself to the Netherlands for a mass meeting on December 11. Here's Karin Spaink's December 5th message announcing the then-upcoming events, and her December 10th message announcing Fishman's arrival in the Netherlands. Karin Spaink prepared a detailed legal defense, which she has placed on her web site in both the original Dutch and English translation.

...then gets cold feet?

Just as the December 11, 1995 meeting was getting underway, the Dutch defendants learned that Scientology had filed for a postponement of the lawsuit, claiming that the Church not find a notary to certify that the the Dutch web pages are in fact copies of Scientology's "secret scriptures". A few hours later, Scientology decided to drop the charges altogether! Details are still sketchy, but here are two messages that Karin Spaink and Felipe Rodriquez sent the night of December 11, followed by more definite messages from Karin and Felipe on December 12.

While Fishman was in the Netherlands, he created a new personal web page at XS4ALL, telling his story and rebutting the charges made against him on the Church of Scientology's anti-Fishman page. He also appeared on the Internet Relay Chat channel #scientology (here's a log file from December 13), and was interviewed by several Dutch newspapers and magazines (see, for example, Nieuwe Revu and Volkskrant).

This story is not over yet. The defendants are considering a counter-suit to recover the costs of preparing defenses for the now-dropped suit. Furthermore, Scientology may still have an option to refile the charges at a later date.

New Dutch suit filed - January 1996

On Saturday, January 6, 1996, Karin Spaink received a fax from Scientology official Kurt Weiland, who informed Spaink that he was in Amsterdam to "finalize the preparations of the lawsuit". The fax also asked Karin to meet with him. On January 11, Karin replied to Weiland's messages, declining his request for a meeting and remarking that "I hardly consider you to be the kind of man I would like to meet in private and have a cup of coffee with."

On January 19, Karin Spaink reported that she had received new letters from Scientology's Dutch law firms, indicating their intend to start two new lawsuits. The letters included a draft of their new subpoena.

On January 31, Scientology informed the Netherlands press, but not any of the defendants, that they were filing a new lawsuit. (English version) The defendants found out when they received queries from the press. The Church's new suit named 23 separate defendants, including 15 Internet service providers, several individual owners of these providers, a major Rotterdam newspaper, a corporation owned by the the Rotterdam city government, and, of course, Karin Spaink. A summary court hearing was held on Monday, February 26; here is Karin Spaink's report on that hearing.

On Tuesday, March 12, 1996, the Netherlands court gave a total victory to the defendants and ordered Scientology to pay the defendants' legal costs. Read Karin Spaink's March 12 report for preliminary information, or her home page for more detailed, up-to-date information.

Other Dutch news

Oussama Cherribi, the member of Parliament, removed his Fishman page after Scientologists began harassing him with telephone calls both at work and at home, and showing up at his Parliamentary office. However, he did send a message of support to the December 11, 1995, meeting, and had planned to put his Fishman page back up again shortly before the now-cancelled December 14 hearing.

Meanwhile, copies of the Fishman Papers have also been plastered on wall posters in central Amsterdam. Consult Dave Touretzky's Clam Bed for a current list of Fishman sites in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Read Karin Spaink's web page and XS4ALL's page for the most up-to-date information on events in the Netherlands. Karin's page contains a number of articles that she has written about this dispute for various Dutch publications. (Yes, they are translated into English too.) XS4ALL's page includes lots of Dutch press coverage (again both in the orginal Dutch and in Engilsh translation).

For some background on XS4ALL's history, read this interview with XS4ALL founders Felipe Rodriquez and Rob Gonggrijp, from the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw back in February 1995.

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Ron Newman, <>