Karin Spaink on Thu, 31 May 2001 09:47:55 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Scientology critic arrested by Canadian SWAT team

The American Scientology critic Keith Henson was arrested on
Monday 28 in Toronto by a heavily armed Canadian SWAT team
on suspicion of terrorism and on the actual charge of not
having informed Canadian immigration that he was a wanted
fellon upon entering the country.

There are three "minor problems" with this. One is that
Henson is not a terrorist. Another is that he is not a
fellon. The third is that he was not wanted at the time the
entered Canada, last week.

Henson's case is probably the most amazing and most
outrageous internet-related legal case ever. In a thread on
alt.religion.scientology on how "Cruise missiles" could be
used to destroy scientology - an obvious reference to the
persistent rumours about Tom Cruise's (lack of) virility -
Henson wrote that "modern weapons are accurate to a matter
of a few tens of yards". That's all he said. Based on this
statement, the so-called "church" of scientology brought
charges against Henson, claiming that he was interfering
with the practice of a religion by threats of using deadly
violence against its members.

Henson was actually prosecuted on this absurd change, in the
district court of Riverside county, a county that is in the
grip of scientology. Not only was Henson prosecuted; during
the trial, which the Register labelled "a true kangaroo
court affair" the jury was not allowed to read the entire
posting on which the charge was based. Judge Wallerstein
ruled that the posting in its entirety was irrelevant and
inadmissible and only allowed the jury to read the
"incriminating" parts of Henson's posting out of context.

Henson was found guilty of "interfering with a religion",
which under California law is a misdemeanor. A few days
before he was sentenced, while in Toronto and having little
faith left in the US legal system, he decided to request
political asylum in Canada. After Henson announced that he
was requesting asylum, judge Wallerstein sentenced him to
200 days in jail and five years probation, the terms of
which include random and unannounced searches of his person,
home and car.

Taste this for a moment: 200 days in jail and five years of
random unannounced searches of his home for a Usenet posting
poking fun at Tom Cruise's virility.

It was presumably machinations of scientology that led to
the arrest of Henson in Toronto, and it might be
understandable that the Canadian authorities overreacted
when faced with the allegation that a dangerous terrorist
was on the lose. However, in the three days that have
elapsed, these misunderstandings must have been cleared.
Therefore, the prosecutor's motion to the court tomorrow
will reflect one of two things: either a request for
Henson's release based on the factual circumstances, or a
request for his further detention based on political
pressure from the cult and the US. Mesdames, monsieurs,
faites vos jeux.


- K -


[Creationists] prove that evolution is not a 
condition which affects everyone equally.
  - Mykel Board, in Mykel's Column for MRR 213

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