Unbiased columnism, day 0
Poor guy versus multinational cult
Stockholm, January 17, 2001
BY THE TIME that this court case will be
appealed, we will need a trailer. I am the beast
of burden. I am sitting in my wheelchair with my
laptop bag on my lap; on top of that, a huge
Samsonite containing most of Zenon's court files,
and on top of that again a plastic bag containing
the papers that wouldn't fit into the Samsonite.
My arms and hands are wrapped around the mountain
of bags to prevent them from shifting and falling.
Zenon is huffing and puffing: he needs to push
twenty-five kilos more than usual. This court case
is half my weight.
WE ARE IN STOCKHOLM for the appeal in Scientology
versus Panoussis. In 1996, Zenon did the same as
I, and more than a hundred people, had done in
1995 in The Netherlands: he put
Affidavit on his homepage, a court file containing
parts of Scientology's higher course material, the
so-called OT-levels. Zenon got sued by
Scientology, just like me. The cult claimed
copyrights and secrecy.
Zenon contacted me in 1996. We became friends and
often mailed one another about our respective
But Zenon did more that we in The Netherlands did.
He posted the NOTs, yet higher course material,
and, according to Scientology, yet more secret.
Moreover, when Scientology sued him, he deftly
used the Swedish "offentlighetsprincipen". This
constitutional principle states that every citizen
has the right to access all documents that are in
the possession of the state, unless these
documents contain state secrets or exclusively
relate to private matters. Citizens may request
copies of all government documents. Zenon filed
the OTs and NOTs with the court and Parliament
(riksdagen), thus ensuring that anybody could
access these files or could ask for a copy for a
small administrative fee. The result? The material
that Scientology had chased with such vehemence -
raiding providers, organisations and individuals
over them; threatening, intimidating and suing
people over them - these documents were suddenly
legally available, official stamps and all.
Scientology got furious and managed to incite the
US - the cult's claws reach far - to start a
diplomatic row with Sweden over this
constitutional offentlighetsprincipen. The US even
threatened Sweden with a trade boycott if Sweden
didn't stop its official distribution of the OTs
and NOTs. After three years of diplomatic and
legal bickering, Sweden limited the constitution
that they took such great pride in: from then on,
unpublished material from third parties was no
longer covered by the offentlighetsprincipen.
Meanwhile, Zenon moved to Amsterdam. We became
lovers. "We were brought together by Scientology"
became our standard joke.
IN SEPTEMBER 1998 the ruling in Scientology's case
against Zenon was given: Zenon lost on most
counts. The court ruled that neither the OTs nor
the NOTs were legally published, and thus nobody
was allowed to possess private copies, nor could
one quote from them. They ordered Zenon to pay
Scientology some 2000 USD damages and more than
150,000 USD in legal fees. Scientology had claimed
almost two million dollars in legal fees, a
ridiculously high amount for Swedish standards,
but even this 150,000 dollars was unprecedented.
Hardly surprising, Zenon couldn't pay that money,
and Scientology confiscated most of his salary in
The Netherlands. For more than two years he has
been living under the level of minimum
subsistence; and yet, what Scientology confiscates
every month doesn't even cover the legal interest
on the main sum. The most cynical aspect of all
this is that afterwards, in my case the Dutch
court ruled that the OTs should be regarded as
having been legally published, a ruling that was
to a great extent based on testimonies delivered -
guess - in Zenon's court case.
Unbiased columnism is a series of court reports on the proceedings of Scientology versus Zenon Panoussis. This series covers the Jan 2001 sessions:
- Day 0, January 17: Poor guy versus multinational cult
- (Next:) Day 1, January 18: Mangled material
- Day 2, January 19: McShane compliments Zenon
- Day 3, January 22: Magnusson becomes helpful
- Day 4, January 23: Children's games
- Day 5 & 6, January 24-25: Unacceptable truths
- Day 7 & 8, January 26-27: Carrying water from the desert to the sea.
This series was preceeded by the May 1998 hearings in Zenon's case.
Copyright Karin Spaink.
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