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Indian sect leader Swami Omkarananda dies at 70

(AP) -- Swami Omkarananda, a Hindu monk and sect leader who was imprisoned in Switzerland for attempted murder, has died, the centre he founded said Thursday. He was 70.

This content was published on January 6, 2000 - 11:10

(AP) -- Swami Omkarananda, a Hindu monk and sect leader who was imprisoned in Switzerland for attempted murder, has died, the centre he founded said Thursday. He was 70.

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

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

But relations between the centre and its neighbours 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 continued to assert that the bomb attack, in which no one was injured, was initiated by the police with the intention of discrediting Omkarananda and forcing his followers to leave Winterthur. The centre now claims about 100 members.

In 1992, Switzerland's highest court declared Omkarananda a nuisance litigant and removed his right to take legal action in Switzerland after he filed more than 170 complaints over a three-year period.

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.

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