Hindu guru allowed to leave US on $10 mn bond

May 20th, 2008 - 7:49 pm ICT by admin  

New York, May 20 (IANS) Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, a prominent Hindu guru and scholar who was charged three weeks ago with groping two underage girls over ten years ago and arrested, has been allowed to leave the US on a whopping $10 million guarantee that he would return to face trial. The 79-year-old founder of Barsana Dham, a 200-acre temple and ashram complex near Austin in Texas — one of the biggest Hindu temples in the US — is out on a $1 million bail.

The swami was indicted on 20 counts of indecency between 1993 and 1996 on complaints filed by two girls last year. He was arrested on April 24 in Washington DC on arrival from Europe, where he had been receiving treatment.

The $10 million guarantee money, considered huge by legal experts, was put up by Peter Spiegel, an entrepreneur who is listed as managing member, director and treasurer of JKP, Barsana Dham, the corporate name of the temple founded by the swami, the American Statesman reported Monday.

Judge Jon Wisser, a semi-retired state district court judge from Travis County, said, “I’ve never in my 35 years heard of anyone putting up that kind of money. It’s unprecedented.”

Saraswati travelled to several places within the US in the last few weeks, giving discourses. He petitioned the court for permission to leave the country to attend to religious matters in India.

A spokesman for Barsana Dham said that Saraswati intends to visit India soon to oversee several hospital-building projects sponsored by his organisation.

District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said that her office argued against permitting the swami to leave the US. “We oppose anybody, who’s out on a felony bond, leaving the country,” she said.

According to other provisions of the release, Saraswati was prohibited from entering Barsana Dham property at any time, as the offences allegedly occurred there.

Spiegel said through a spokesperson, “I have known Shree Swamiji for 24 years, and the accusations against him are false. Anyone who knows Swamiji well would have done the same thing.”

Born in Ayodhya, India, the swami is a disciple of Jagadguru Kripalu Maharaj, a prominent guru of the devotional path. He started his mission in 1971 and has led the creation of several Hindu centres and temples around the world and has overseen the development of several charitable hospitals in India. A renowned scholar, he has authored many books on Hinduism including “The True History and the Religion of India”.

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