THE DALLES, Ore. -- The personal doctor to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who claims he was poisoned by former top disciples of the guru's sect, testified as the first witness Tuesday in a special grand jury investigation.
Swami Devaraj and his wife, Prem Hasya, the personal secretary to Rajneesh, were the first witnesses summoned before the seven-member jury. They appeared at the Wasco County Courthouse decked out in the distinctive red and purple clothing that has become a trademark of the Rajneesh movement.
Devaraj, also kown as Dr. George Meredith, said he expected to testify about attempts by former leaders of the commune to poison him in the summer of 1984. In earlier statements, he said he was jabbed with a needle while in a crowd of people at the guru's central Oregon commune and developed an illness that left him hospitalized for two weeks.
The doctor testified to morning and afternoon sessions of the jury. Hasya was scheduled as the second witness.
The special jury of five men and two women was called to investigate accusations leveled by Rajneesh against his former personal secretary, Ma Anand Sheela, and other leaders of his sect who left the commune last month and fled to Europe. The guru accused his former disciples of plotting to poison their enemies, burning buildings, vandalizing public buildings and other crimes.
'There is no doubt they are guilty. We have the proof and the witnesses,' Hasya told reporters assembled at the courthouse.
The 53-year-old guru selected Hasya to run his affairs after Sheela left the commune Sept. 14. Sheela, who has been living in West Germany, has denied the accusations against her.
Hasya, 48, is president of the Rajneesh Foundation International. She is the former wife of Hollywood filmmaker Hal Ruddy, who produced the Godfather.
Also scheduled to testify today were Ma Deva Barkha, Rajneeshpuram chief of police, and Dyan John, president of the Rajneesh Investment Corp., and manager of the guru's collection of Rolls Royce automobiles.
The jury was meeting under tight security on the second floor of the courthouse. Unlike regular grand juries, the names of the seven special panalists were kept secret.
More than 100 members of the guru's commune have been subpoenaed to testify to the county grand jury and a federal grand jury that will meet in Portland next month. The federal jury will look into allegations that Sheela and her close associates installed wiretapping devices throughout the commune and were responsible for a food poisoning ourbreak in The Dalles that made more than 700 people ill.
In a separate action Tuesday, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Phillip T. Abraham refused to grant a postponement of an Oct. 29 trial date for a suit and countersuit by the comune organizations and Robert and Glenda Harvey. Harvey was foreman of the 64,000 acre former cattle ranch where the guru and his followers now live.
The Rajeeshees are seeking $136,000 from the Harveys in disputed wages. Harvey is conutersuing for more than $3 million claiming defamation and invasion of privacy by members of the commune.