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U.S. pursues extradition of Ma Anand Sheela

KARLSRUHE, West Germany -- Documents supporting an American request for the extradition of Ma Anand Sheela, the former personal secretary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Oregon, arrived in West Germany today, a German prosecutor said.

Prosecutor Ernst Bauer said the documents will be examined to determine if Sheela will be returned to the United States to face charges of attempted murder and immigration fraud.

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He said the documents arrrived in Bonn today and automatically will be sent to a state court in Karlsruhe, which will determine if the documents support the American allegations.

If the court rules the evidence against Sheela is insufficient, the extradition request will be rejected, a Bonn Justice Ministry spokesman said.

If it rules the extradition request should be granted, a final decision will be made by the Justice Ministry.

U.S. Attorney Charles Turner of Portland, Ore., and his assistant, Baron C. Shelahl, were in Germany to confer with officials on the case.

American authorities have accused Sheela, 35, of trying to poison Dr. George Meredith, who was the personal physican of Rajneesh, an Indian guru, at his commune in Oregon.

Sheela, who broke with the guru and arrived in Europe in September, also is accused of conspiracy to violate U.S. immigration laws by arranging sham marriages.

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She was arrested in the Black Forest town of Waldshut Oct. 28 at the request of American authorities. An Indian national married to a Swiss, she was being held in a women's prison at Buehl, 50 miles west of Stuttgart, under her real name of Sheela Bernstiel.

The United States is also seeking the extradition of two followers arrested with Sheela: Catherine Jane Elsea, 40, of Australia, alias Ma Shanti Bhandra, and Diane Evonne Onang, 37, of the United States, alias Ma Anand Puja.

Rajneesh has given up his Oregon commune and returned to India. He left the United States after his arrest for immigration fraud and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.

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