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Frankfurter Rundschau 05-26-2004


Intimidation tactic on the autobahn

On Tuesday Brandenburg district court heard a harmless traffic violation. The offender, however, is a Scientologist, which makes it a delicate matter.

Frankfurter Rundschau
26 May 2004


An eerie scene played itself out in the morning hours of 19 January 2003 in Brandenburg province. That was the day Rev. Thomas Gandow, along with his wife and former Scientology member Gerry Armstrong, were planning to go to a church service in Berlin to talk about the "misuse of religion." Even before their departure, however, the three noticed a dark gray Opel in which sat a man who was quite openly observing the residence of the clergyman and his wife.

This was not the first time that Gandow and his wife had been under observation. Ever since ex-Scientologist Armstrong, who has been engaged in a bizarre form of guerilla warfare with the sect for years, had moved in with the couple, odd incidents in the village abounded. Strangers popped up to take pictures, to distribute libelous literature and ask the neighbors strange questions. So the Gandows and their guest from Canada were forewarned when they set out for Berlin that morning. This time, however, they were witnesses to an incident that Gandow's wife still calls "shocking."

Hardly had they got on the autobahn, as they reported in Brandenburg district court on Tuesday, when the driver of the Opel brought his vehicle dangerously close to theirs. After that the driver of the Opel came up along side them while taking pictures, then pulled ahead and stepped on his brakes. Armstrong, who at first took the camera lens for a pistol barrel, was very upset, said the woman witness. The vehicular maneuvering repeated itself, so the Gandows called the autobahn patrol. The officers put an end to the nightmare and escorted the three to Berlin.

The defendent, Mirko O., did not fundamentally deny this testimony. As a matter of fact, said the Berlin real estate agent, when he was taking photographs of Gandow and Armstrong, he was officially working on behalf of "the legal department of Scientology." The photographs were meant for "American attorneys," "who were involved with Mr. Armstrong." The defendent, however, did deny that he endangered anyone, after all, the whole incident went off relatively harmlessly.

This view was probably not shared completely by the organization that contracted him. Right after the automobile incident Scientology made it known that O. had overstepped his bounds and was being held accountible in accordance with "internal church" policy. The district court let him off leniently: the proceedings were suspended in exchange for a 1,000 euro fine.

So was this just an innocent traffic offense? Not entirely, believes Reverend Gandow, the sect commissioner of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg. As he sees it, the incident is another indication that Scientologists "do not feel bound by law and order," that they welcome any method of intimidating critics. For this reason he believes it would be a fatal mistake for the Office of the Protection of the Constitution to stop surveillance of Scientology, as the clergyman told Frankfurter Rundschau.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution sees things similarly. The agency's most recent annual report says that Scientology continues to pursue counter-Constitutional goals and intends to replace the parliamentary democracy with a Scientology system. Therefore, according to the report, there is no reason to stop surveillance of Scientology, which began in 1997.

Original article in German:
http://www.frankfurter-rundschau.de/ressorts/nachrichten_und_politik/deutschland/?sid= 2077642ce194449bc7aac1fb48f9f647&cnt=443282


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