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Chronicle of guru's trouble and flight

By Shannon Horst / November 1, 1985



A federal prosecutor said Thursday that Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh should be held without bond because he is a danger to society, but defense attorneys said the guru, charged with immigration law violations, presented no danger to anyone. The bhagwan is an Indian guru, who claims a following of some 500,000 disciples worldwide. Since 1981 he and some 3,000 of his followers have lived in a commune called Rajneeshpuram in Oregon's Wasco County.

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The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and more than 10 of his followers were arrested Monday at Charlotte-Douglass International Airport near Charlotte, N.C. Their arrest was requested by the US attorney of Oregon.

The bhagwan along with some of his followers have been named by a federal grand jury in indictments for conspiracy to make false statements to federal immigration officers and a string of immigration offenses such as harboring illegal aliens and arranging ``sham'' marriages between legal residents and aliens desiring permanent residency. The bhagwan's own legal status in the US has long been disputed.

Reports indicate that the bhagwan and some 100 followers have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury on Nov. 20.

Since early fall of this year, the commune has been torn by inner strife that began when the bhagwan accused a number of his close associates with wire- tapping, arson, and attempted murder.

The bhagwan left the commune Sunday on a Learjet headed for Charlotte. Authorities say he was trying to flee the country. He has denied this, stating he was going on a vacation. It has not been determined as to whether or not he knew of the indictment charges before leaving the commune.--30--{et