ST. PETERSBURG, February 12 (RAPSI, Mikhail Telekhov) – The criminal case over illegal business operations and extremism the defendants in which are leaders of the Church of Scientology of St. Petersburg has reached court, the United press service of St. Petersburg courts informs RAPSI.

The case is to be tried on merits by the St. Petersburg Nevsky District Court. Among the defendants are the leader of the religious group Ivan Matsitsky, its chief accountant Sakhib Aliyev, the organization’s executive director Galina Shurinova, chief of the official matters department Anastasia Terentyeva, and her assistance Constance Yesaulkova.

The defendants stay charged with organization of an extremist society, incitement of hatred or enmity, violation of human dignity, and illegal business operations.

In March 2018, searches were conducted at the premises of the Church of Scientology of St. Petersburg. The raids were directed to identifying more items and documents confirming the criminality of the religious organization leaders’ actions, the FSB press-service said at that time.

According to investigators, from 2013 to 2016, the organization received over 276 million rubles (about $5 million) for rendering its services. However, the Church of Scientology of St. Petersburg has not been incorporated under the law, an FSB representative said in court earlier.

Dianetics and Scientology are a set of religious and philosophical ideas and practices that were put forth by L. Ron Hubbard in the US in the early 1950s.

The scientific community never recognized it as science.

A resolution passed in 1996 by the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, classified the Church of Scientology as a destructive religious organization.

The Moscow Regional Court ruled in 2012 that some of Hubbard’s books be included on the Federal List of Extremist Literature and prohibited from distribution in Russia.