3 Aum members on death row may testify against fellow cultist

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Three men who were sentenced to death for their part in the Aum Shinrikyo cult’s 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway may be called to testify in the trial of fellow cult member Makoto Hirata.

Hirata, who turned himself in to Tokyo police on New Year’s Even, 2011 — after almost 17 years on the run — has been indicted in three cases, including the fatal abduction and confinement of a Tokyo notary clerk in 1995.

According to court records and other sources, Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara ordered his followers to abduct the clerk, Kiyoshi Kariya, in order to discover the whereabouts of Kariya’s sister who had been in hiding after she tried to leave the cult.

Investigators had planned to question Asahara regarding the case, but it is unclear whether they have done so.

The Daily Yomiuri says that during pretrial conference procedures, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office applied to the Tokyo District Court to call Yoshihiro Inoue, Tomomasa Nakagawa, and Yasuo Hayashi to testify against Hirata.

Nakagawa was convicted of injecting Kariya with a general anaesthetic which eventually killed him. Inoue was the orchestrator of the two other crimes that Hirata is indicted for: his involvement in a bomb blast at a Tokyo condominium and the throwing of a firebomb into Aum’s Tokyo headquarters in 1995.


Lawsuits allege Narconon Arrowhead counselors traded sex for drugs

Counselors at Narconon Arrowhead — a Scientology front group — allegedly traded drugs for sex and fraudulently charged a patient’s credit card some $14,500, according to allegations in five lawsuits filed Thursday against the facility. 

Oklahoma newspaper McAlester News-Capital reports

The suits were filed in Pittsburg County District Court against Narconon of Oklahoma, Narconon International, Association of Better Living and Education International on behalf of family members of former clients of Narconon Arrowhead.

Also among the allegations, the suits say Narconon influenced a grandmother to take out a $7,000 loan to “save her grandson’s life” and charged some $14,500 to a credit card obtained without the cardholder’s knowledge.

Narconon Arrowhead faces a host of legal problems. The center — which uses the ludicrous medical claims of Scientology founder and fantasist L. Ron Hubbard in its attempts to treat drug addicts — is the subject of four wrongful death lawsuits.

Gary Smith, its chief executive officer, and several of the center’s employees have had their drug counseling certifications revoked.

The McAlester News-Capital says

the five lawsuits filed Thursday follow a string of wrongful death lawsuits filed by Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson. Richardson also represents the families of three people found dead at the facility and who are also suing Narconon Arrowhead.

The lawsuits follow the July 19 death of Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso, which prompted an investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office and the state department of mental health

The investigation later expanded to include three other deaths: Hillary Holten, 21, who was found dead at Narconon Arrowhead in April; Gabriel Graves, 32, who died at the facility in October, and Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, who died in 2009 at a local hospital while she was a client of the facility.

No criminal charges have been filed in the deaths. District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward said he is still looking into the case.

The five lawsuits filed Thursday allege false representation, fraud and deceit, non-disclosure or concealment, breach of contract and civil conspiracy.

According to local TV station KJRH, attorney Gary Richarson

believes these lawsuits are just the “tip of the iceberg.” He says he’s gotten several calls from former Narconon patients and family members.

“We’re not about shutting anyone down, we’re about people operating honestly,” Richardson said.

The station says that John Betinas, spokesman for Narconon Arrowhead, issued a statement saying in part, “It is pretty clear that these lawsuits are financially motivated and have no foundation of truth contained in them.”

Research resources on Narconon

Bikram Yoga Founder Accused of Sexual Harassment

Bikram Choudhury, founder of the ‘hot yoga’ method Bikram yoga, is being sued by former student student Sarah Baughn, who acuuses him of sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment.

ABC News says

The complaint claims that Baughn was discriminated against as a woman because she did not submit to Choudhury’s “repeated demands for sex, and because she successfully fought him off when he sexually assaulted her.” Baughn claims that because of her repeated refusal, she also was hindered professionally and was denied the judge-determined title of yoga’s International Champion in 2008. […]

Choudhury did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. In an interview with ABC News’ David Wright last fall, Choudhury said,  “Women in the world love me, because I take care of the women. … But yogi is supposed to be yogi. They cannot involve with women.”

The station points out that this is not the first time Choudhury — who has proclaimed himself to be the “most respected living yoga guru in the world — has found himself in the midst of controversy.

In 2011 he sued Yoga to the People for teaching his copyrighted methods. The case was settled out of court.

Yoga for the People’s response to the lawsuit included an email from the U.S. Copyright Office indicating that yoga poses cannot be copyrighted.

According to ABC News

Choudhury was also the subject of controversy in 2010, when then student Pandhora Williams claimed that Bikram made derogatory comments about women and homosexuals. Bikram  has denied all wrongdoing, and the case is scheduled to go to trial April 29.

Yoga and the art of making money

Citizens of polygamous cult’s town watched by surveillance cameras

People who live in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, are constantly beind watched by dozens of security cameras.

Most of the citizens of these towns are members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) — a high-control cult.

Followers view the Mormon sect’s leader, Warren Jeffs, as a ‘prophet’ set over them by God — even though he is currently serving a life plus 20 years prison sentence sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed “spiritual marriages.”

From his jail cell in Texas, Jeffs continues to rule the sect with an iron fist.

Journalist with the Salt Lake Tribune have documented 29 of the cameras. The paper says

At least two cameras point at the Holm School, where William E. Jessop meets for Sunday services with his breakaway congregation of former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. […]

[F]ormer resident Willie Jessop — who used to manage security for the FLDS before leaving it and who is sometimes confused with the new congregation leader of a similar name — said the cameras were designed to monitor community members and keep them in line with FLDS leadership. According to Jessop, the cameras are wired into a central monitoring system and are controlled by Lyle Jeffs, the brother of imprisoned FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, and other leaders.

Jedi could perform marriages, says Free Church of Scotland

The Free Church of Scotland is concerned that the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will allow groups promoting a belief to marry couples.

According to the BBC

The government said the change was relevant to bodies such as humanists, who are classed as religious rather than non-religious at the moment. […]

Church spokesman, the Reverend Iver Martin, told BBC Alba: “The third category is quite astonishing because it is the so-called belief category without really defining what belief means.

“There are loads of people in a diverse society like this for whom belief can mean virtually anything – the Flat Earth Society and Jedi Knights Society – who knows?

“I am not saying that we don’t give place to that kind of personal belief, but when you start making allowances for marriages to be performed within those categories then you are all over the place.”

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This post was last updated: Feb. 25, 2015