Ma Anand Sheela – Wikipedia

Posted: April 7, 2019 at 8:51 am

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Ma Anand Sheela (born 28 December 1949 as Sheela Ambalal Patel in India, also known as Sheela Birnstiel)[1] is an Indian-born AmericanSwiss former spokeswoman of the Rajneesh movement (aka Osho movement) who has been convicted of multiple attempted murders.

Ma Anand Sheela

Sheela Ambalal Patel

As the personal secretary of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh from 1981 through 1985, she managed the Rajneeshpuram ashram in Wasco County, Oregon, United States.[2] In 1985, she pleaded guilty to attempted murder and assault for her role in the 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack.[3] She was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and paroled after 39 months [4] Sheela later moved to Switzerland, where she married, and purchased two nursing homes. In 1999, she was convicted by a Swiss court of "criminal acts preparatory to the commission of murder" in relation to a plot to kill US federal prosecutor Charles Turner in 1985.

David Berry Knapp, aka Swami Krishna Deva, former mayor of Rajneeshpuram, told the FBI in his testimony that Sheela told him during a trip to India which they took in 1985, that she had injected her first husband [Marc Harris Silverman] with an injection that caused his death.[5] After prison, Sheela married Urs Birnstiel, a Swiss citizen, who reportedly died after a short marriage.[6]

Sheela married Marc Harris Silverman, an American from Highland Park, Illinois,[9][10] and took the name Sheela P. Silverman.[11] She moved to India in 1972 to pursue spiritual studies with her husband. They became disciples of the Indian guru Rajneesh and Sheela took the name Ma Anand Sheela.[1][12] After her husband died, Sheela married a fellow Rajneesh follower, John Shelfer.[12]

In 1981, Sheela became Rajneesh's personal assistant and convinced him to leave India and establish an ashram in the United States.[13][14] In July 1981, Sheela purchased the 64,000-acre (260km2) Big Muddy Ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, which became the site for the development of the Rajneeshpuram commune.[13][15] She became president of Rajneesh Foundation International,[13] managed the commune and met daily with Rajneesh to discuss business matters.[13][16][17] According to Sheela, Rajneesh was complicit in and directed her involvement in criminal acts she later committed.[18]

By 1984, the ashram was coming into increasing conflict with local residents and the county commission (Wasco County Court).[19] Sheela attempted to influence the Wasco County Court's November election and capture the two open seats[20][21] by bussing in hundreds of homeless people from within Oregon as well as outside, and registering them as county voters.[13] Later, when that effort failed,[22][23] Sheela conspired, in 1984, to use "bacteria and other methods to make people ill" and prevent them from voting.[24][25] As a result, the salad bars at ten local restaurants were infected with salmonella and about 750 people became ill.[3][20][26][27]

On September 13, 1985, Sheela fled to Europe.[15][28] A few days later Rajneesh "accused her of arson, wiretapping, attempted murder, and mass poisonings."[15] He also asserted that Sheela had written the Book of Rajneeshism and published it under his name.[29] Subsequently, Sheela's robes and 5,000 copies of the Book of Rajneeshism were burned in a bonfire at the ashram.[29]

After US authorities searching her home found wire-tapping networks and a laboratory in which the bacteria used in the attack had been grown,[15] Sheela was arrested in West Germany in October 1986. She was extradited to the US in February on charges of immigration fraud[30] and attempted murder.[26][31] The Oregon Attorney General prosecuted for crimes related to the poisoning of Commissioner Matthew and Judge Hulse[32] while the US Attorney prosecuted crimes related to the restaurant poisonings.[32] Sheela pleaded guilty on 22 July 1986 to first-degree assault and conspiracy to commit assault against Hulse[32] and later to second-degree assault and conspiracy to commit assault against Matthew.[32] She pleaded guilty to setting fire to a county office and wire-tapping at the commune. For these crimes, Sheela was sentenced to three 20-year terms in federal prison,[33] to be served concurrently. In addition she was fined $470,000.[26][32][34]

Sheela was sent to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, for female criminals.[34] While there, she announced plans to make a "controversial documentary" about her life.[35] In December 1988, she was released on good behavior after serving 39 months of her 20-year sentence, and moved to Switzerland.[36][37][38]

Sheela married Swiss citizen Urs Birnstiel, a fellow Rajneesh follower.[39] She moved to Maisprach, Switzerland, where she bought and managed two nursing homes.[36][38]

In 1999, she was convicted by a Swiss court for "criminal acts preparatory to the commission of murder" in relation to a plot to kill US federal prosecutor Charles Turner in 1985. The Swiss government refused to extradite her to the US but agreed to try her in Switzerland. She was found guilty of the equivalent Swiss charge and was sentenced to time served.[40]

In 2008, Sheela collaborated with David Woodard and Christian Kracht on an art exhibition at the Zrich Cabaret Voltaire, the building which was once the birthplace of the Dada movement.[41][42]

In 2018, a documentary, Wild Wild Country, was released that includes interviews with Sheela. On July 20, 2018, 'BBC Stories' YouTube channel published a video called Wild Wild Country: What happened to Sheela?[43]

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Ma Anand Sheela - Wikipedia

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April 7th, 2019 at 8:51 am