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Indian Sect Leader Omkarananda Dies

January 6, 2000

WINTERTHUR, Switzerland (AP) _ Swami Omkarananda, a Hindu monk and sect leader who was imprisoned in Switzerland for attempted murder, is dead. He was 70.

Omkarananda died of the flu on Tuesday at his home near Bregenz, Austria, Erhard Finger, a spokesman for the Divine Light Center in Winterthur said Thursday.

Born in India, Omkarananda left home at 16 to study in a Himalayan retreat. He moved to Switzerland in the 1960s and founded the center for meditation and study in 1966.

But relations between the Divine Light Center and its neighbors were rocky and in 1975 followers of Omkarananda were accused of being behind a bomb attack at the home of Jakob Stucki, a lawmaker and Zurich police chief.

Omkarananda, charged along with other members of the sect, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempted murder. He was released in 1985 and deported to India, but later moved to Bregenz, near the Swiss border. A 15-year ban on his return to Switzerland was due to expire later this year.

Followers of Omkarananda assert that the bomb attack, which resulted in no injuries, was initiated by the police to discredit Omkarananda and force his followers to leave Winterthur. The center now claims about 100 members.

Finger said Omkarananda’s body was cremated Wednesday and his ashes would be taken to India, where they would be scattered in the Ganges River. Details of survivors were not available.

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