Ma Anand Sheela and Two Other Ex-Followers of Rajneesh Leave for U.S.
FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ Ma Anand Sheela, former personal aide to Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and two other ex-sect members left West Germany today for the United States to face charges of attempted murder.
The three women were escorted by U.S. marshals as they left late this morning on TWA Flight 741 to Las Vegas, Nev., via New York, said Frankfurt airport spokeswoman Christina Schulz.
Sheela, 36, Ma Anand Puja, 38, and Ma Shanti Bhadra, 40, were taken to Frankfurt after a one hour flight by helicopter from the Buehl jail in southern West Germany, where they had been held since Oct. 28. Marshals took the trio through a private gate at the airport where reporters could not approach them.
The three women fled to West Germany with about 20 other former Rajneesh sect members in September, following reports of criminal irregularities at the guru’s central Oregon commune.
They were arrested on West German warrants based on Wasco County grand jury indictments issued Oct. 25.
The indictments charged the women with attempted murder, first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with an alleged poison- syringe attack last July 6 on Rajneesh’s personal doctor.
Their alleged victim was Swami Devaraj, 41, an Englishman born in Quetta, Pakistan. Devaraj left the United States with Rajneesh after the guru pleaded guilty to immigration charges Nov. 14. Rajneesh, 54, went back to his native India and is believed to be in Katmandu, Nepal.
Sheela was the guru’s personal secretary until mid-September and had near- dictatorial powers at his central Oregon commune.
Puja, a Philippines native, ran the Rajneesh Medical Corp. Bhadra, who once owned a health food store in her native Perth, Australia, was treasurer of Rajneesh Foundation International, the guru’s church, later renamed Rajneesh Friends International.
After they were jailed in West Germany, Sheela and Puja were indicted on additional charges in Oregon.
On Nov. 18, the Wasco County grand jury charged both women with first- and second-degree assault and criminal conspiracy in alleged poisoning attempts in 1984 on Wasco County Judge William F. Hulse and Wasco County Commissioner Ray Matthew.
Sheela also was charged with burglary and first-degree arson in connection with a Jan. 14, 1985, fire in the Wasco County planning department.
On Dec. 20, Sheela was charged in a federal grand jury indictment with four counts of conspiracy to commit electronic eavesdropping.
In addition, Sheela apparently will face trial on the original charges brought against her - 32 counts of immigration crimes that were contained in an Oct. 23 federal grand jury indictment.