A woman told ABC News Lateline that Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, imprisoned her on the Church's cruise ship. Valeska Paris claimed she was imprisoned on the ship at 17 so that her mother would not take her away from Scientology.
Valeska Paris alleged she spent more than a decade in her cruise ship prison and left it in the first six years of her imprisonment only with an escort.
Valeska Paris was born to a Scientology family in Switzerland and at six, she became member of the youth wing at the Scientology headquarters in the UK. When Valeska was 14, she became a member of the Church's elite Sea Organization. According to Valeska, in an interview with Steve Cannane on ABC's Lateline, at 14, she signed a contract binding her to the organization for a billion years.
The Village Voice reports that after her ex-husband Albert Jaquier (Valeska's stepfather) committed suicide, Valeska's mother denounced the Church on French TV. Albert Jaquier, a millionaire, who lived the last days of his life in poverty, had blamed the Church for the loss of his wealth. Mr Miscavige in retaliation ordered Valeska's "disconnection" from her mother. He effected the disconnection by having her taken away to the Church's cruise ship.
According to Valeska:
"I was basically hauled in and told that my mum had attacked the church and that I needed to disconnect from her because she was suppressive."
Valeska says she was told she would be on the ship for only two weeks but she was held there against her will for 12 years. Valeska recollects her ordeal:
"He decided the ship, and I found out two hours before my plane left, I was woken up in the morning and I was sent to the ship for two weeks. I had been in Scientology my whole life. I did not want to be there, I made it clear I did not want to be there and that was considered bad ethics, meaning it was considered not right. They take your passport when you go on the ship and you're in the middle of an island. So it's a bit hard [to escape] and by that time I was 18, I'd been in Scientology my whole life, it's not like I knew how to escape."
Valeska claims that during her stay on the ship, she was forced to do hard labour in the engine room. According to The Village Voice, Valeska said the work was so hard that she once passed out for more than 4 hours.
"It's hot, it's extremely loud [the engine room], it's smelly, it's not nice. I was sent down there at first for 48 hours straight on almost no sleep and I had to work by myself...I was not allowed to work with anyone else. I don't know if I went unconscious or if I fell asleep but I was cleaning some part of an engine it was extremely loud and I was just out for like four hours and this guy came and shook me four hours later and he said I was unconscious."
Village Voice , quoting Marty Rathbun's blog in 2010, describes Paris's recollections of her life on The Freewind:
"I was put in this small room by myself with a camera monitoring my movements. A security guard escorted me anywhere I went, I had to eat in the engine room and was not allowed to eat in the control room because it was air conditioned. I was not allowed to work with anyone so I was alone at all times...I was in the engine room for almost 3 months full time. I hated it and just wanted to get off the Ship, I was of course not allowed to call my family at all or talk to anyone."
The Freewind, according to ABC News, is used by Scientology for its highest level course, the Operating Thetan Level III course. The ship cruises around the Caribbean, docking at small islands. The Church says the ship has special religious significance because Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, had ministered the first Operating Thetan Levels aboard the ship.
According to a promotional by the church, The Freewind stands,
"at the forefront of a growing worldwide movement towards spiritual advancement transporting Scientologists to new realms of freedom".
The Church of Scientology, according to ABC News, has refused to grant requests for interviews on the story and their lawyers sent a letter to ABC's Lateline, threatening legal action over a breach of confidentiality agreement between the Church and Valeska Paris, saying that her claims were false. The statement said:
"She certainly wasn't 'forced' to be there. She was also never forced to perform labour in the engine room...The Freewinds is a wonderful place, as even Valeska said on numerous occasions. Her allegation that she could only leave the ship with an escort is totally false."
But a former member of the church, who according to the The Village Voice, was also a member of Sea Org., confirmed Valeska Paris's statement. Ms. Dienes-Browning was in charge of monitoring staff behavior and performance on the ship. She says that Ms. Paris was held on the ship against her will. According to Ms. Dienes-Browning, the Church of Scientology was lying that Ms. Paris was not kept against her will. Dienes-Browning said:
"She made it very clear she did not want to be there. She had been sent to the ship so as not to be in contact with one of her parents and that's not what she wanted, she was very, very distressed. I would definitely consider it imprisonment because there was no choice in the matter."
Paris, according to The Village Voice, was finally sent to Rehabilitation Project Force in Sydney as punishment. According to The Village Voice, while Scientology portrays the Rehabilitation Project Force as a spa-like retreat members voluntarily attend, ex-members who have been there say it is more like a prison or re-education camp. There, Paris met her husband, rugby star Chris Guider.