January 12, 1998 in Nation/World

Cult Leader Accused Of Plan To Lead Followers To Suicide

Compiled From Wire Services

A Spanish judge has charged a German cult leader with attempted murder for planning to lead 31 followers, including five children, to a mass suicide.

Psychologist Heide Fittkau-Garthe was jailed without bail after five hours of questioning Saturday by Judge Juan Luis Lorenzo Bragado, the Spanish national news agency EFE reported.

Fittkau-Garthe, 57, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion that her followers planned to poison themselves Thursday, when they believed the world would end.

After her arrest, sect members told police that they had expected a spaceship to pick up their dead bodies from Teide mountain on Tenerife, one of seven islands in the Canary archipelago off the northwest African coast.

The followers, one Spaniard and 30 Germans, were not arrested.

The sect, whose name was not released, has been linked to the Order of the Solar Temple. That group’s followers have carried out mass suicides in Canada, France and Switzerland.

If convicted, Fittkau-Garthe could face up to eight years in prison.

The following fields overflowed: DATELINE = SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS

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