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Newsletter January, 1998

News Briefs

A cult group on Tenerife, an island off Spain, was foiled by police in a mass suicide attempt - twice. The alleged cult leader, German psychologist Heide Fittkau-Garthe, was charged with attempted murder and "inducement to suicide" and was ordered held without bail. After the first attempt failed, 19 of the 32 members -- including three children -- tried to kill themselves again. They believed the world was about to end and a spaceship would rescue their spirits from an island volcano.

Aum Shinrikyo, the cult blamed for the March 1995 subway nerve gas attack, will have to pay survivors and the families of those killed up to 1.12 billion yen ($8.62 million) in damages, court officials decided. The number of followers of the religious cult currently stands at around 2,200, and the cult is actively recruiting, police said.

An Athens appeals court upheld stiff prison sentences for two young Satanists, convicted of rape and murder in black magic ceremonies that shocked Greece.

Details of the secret Scientology Internal Revenue Service tax settlement in 1993 were recently made public by the Wall Street Journal. According to the agreement, Scientology paid the IRS $12.5 million and got tax-exempt status to end a long-standing dispute with the tax agency. As part of the deal, Scientology agreed to drop the 2,200 lawsuits the organization and its members had pending against the service.

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