Patrice Riemens on Tue, 6 Feb 2007 18:34:51 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> R.U. Sirius: Scientology fugitive arrested

bwo the HippiesfromHell list/Rhialto

Scientology Fugitive Arrested
By RU Sirius
February 4th, 2007

Keith Henson

On Friday, Arizona police arrested a 64-year-old man  a fugitive since
2001 in a bizarre war that mixes free speech, copyright law, and the
Church of Scientology.

Keith Hensons journey began seven years ago while innocuously watching
another critic mock the group on an internet newsgroup. In a gonzo
discussion about procuring a Tom Cruise missile, theyd joked about
working with Secret Agent 99, wearing a stunning black leather biker
outfit. Other posters joined in the internet discussion, asking whether
Tom Cruise missiles are affected by wind.No way, Keith joked. Modern
weapons are accurate to a matter of a few tens of yards.

The police were informed of his threatening posts, and Henson was

The police tipsters were the Scientologists themselves, who had already
been the targets of an annoying picketing campaign by Henson over the
death of a woman near their complex. Besides Hensons inability to
acquire long-range missiles, his wife notes bitterly that it would be
impossible for any church members in the complex to feel threatened by
the internet posts, since they arent even allowed to access the
internet. Scientology officials have also claimed Henson followed their
employees home  though Henson counters that the same people who claimed
to have been terrorized by the picketers offered to take them to lunch
on June 25, 2000, evidently to distract them from the death scene being
cleaned up.

Though Henson was found innocent of long-range missile terrorism, for
his activities he was convicted of interfering with a church  a
California hate crime for which he received a six-month misdemeanor
prison sentence. But Henson said he feared his life would be in danger
from Scientologists if he were imprisoned - and he fled to Canada in

He was already bankrupt from an earlier ruling that hed infringed on
Scientology copyrights. But Henson continued picketing Scientologists in
Toronto, and they apparently retaliated by informing Canadian police of
his presence. (Henson believes the Scientologists told police he was a
terrorist and bomb maker.) L.A. Weekly reported two unmarked vans pulled
up and a handful of emergency-services task-force officers  Canadas
version of a police SWAT team  spilled out, wearing body armor and
carrying submachine guns. Describing the event, the EFF reported Henson
was arrested in a shopping mall parking lot, by a heavily armed
paramilitary unit.

EFF Executive Director Shari Steele argued that Free speech was at stake
in his case: This trial seems intended to punish Mr. Henson for his
opposition to a powerful organization using the barest thread of legal
justification to do so.

His wife added in an interview with a Canadian newsweekly that Its
horrifying to me and to his friends how theyve managed to twist his

Henson was ultimately released from a Canadian jail after filing an
application for political asylum  reportedly the first ever accepted for
review by the Canadian government, and for the next three years he lived
as an expatriate in Canada, awaiting their decision.

When asked to describe life in Canada, he replied colder. As the years
rolled by, Henson explained his picketing strategy evolved out of a
desire to have a real impact. In a 2005 interview he argued that
heavy-handed legal tactics intimidated police from acting against the
organization, and Starving Scientology of new members is perhaps the
best we can do.

But when Canadian officials reached a decision in 2005, Henson was
suddenly filled with concern. The hearing could result in his
deportation back to the prison where he feared for his life. He
reportedly said, Im not going to be shoved across the border into the
hands of Scientologists, Henson slipped out of Canada, returning to
fugitive status, and joked that he was hiding in the Mortmain Mountains
the treachorous range in Lemony Snicket books.

For 17 months he lived on the lam. Yesterday, in the small town of
Prescott, Arizona  the law finally caught up with him. Henson had been
driving his wifes car, and when stopped by police, was soon informed of
the outstanding warrant for his arrest. He was taken into custody, and
faces extradition back to the California prison hes feared for the last
six years. Saturday morning Hensons wife, identifying herself as a soon
to be widow, issued a plea asking the public for legal help, publicity
anything but the usual Scientology private eyes who have harassed her
for years.

Henson has a long history of activity within tech culture. He was one of
the founders and leaders of the L5 Space Colony movement in the 1970s.
(Californias new Attorney General, Jerry Brown, was also in the L5 orbit
when he was Governor of that state.) He was a close associate of K. Eric
Drexler while Drexler was conceiving nanotechnology. He has also been
active in the digital encryption movement, and has been associated with
the Transhumanist movement  particularly Extropy Institute.

Former Extropy Institute members and other well wishers have already
created a legal defense fund. There is also now a Free Keith Henson blog
where people can keep track of new developments. Henson has many friends
and late Friday night one supporter even called the jail, according to a
Usenet post, and spoke to a prison staffer.

I asked if hed tell Keith that Tory sent her love. And I asked him to
please watch after Keith.

more on this story at:

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