CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh says that he is innocent of immigration fraud charges and was not fleeing the country when arrested here but that the experience has soured him on the United States and he plans to return to India.
"I am going to move out of America because this behavior has wounded me very badly," Rajneesh said in an interview published today in the Charlotte Observer.
"They have turned an innocent person into a prisoner. It shows America's real face. It is a country filled with hypocrisy. . . . I will go back to my country."
The guru, who was arrested early Monday when his two chartered Learjets landed at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, faces a federal magistrate's hearing Thursday. He is being held in the Mecklenburg County Jail's medical section.
During the interview in a cramped hallway, Rajneesh was dressed in prison clothes, a green shirt and blue pants. He normally wears a floor-length robe and a knitted cap. He said he was embarrassed to be seen in prison garb.
"It's the first time I've worn clothes like these," he said. "But I want America to see what it has done to an innocent person."
Rajneesh, being held with six followers, said he was unaware that indictments had been filed against him when he left the commune Sunday night.
"Then why did I leave? Well, for a few days there were so many threats," he said. "People who did not give their name would call me and make threats. My friends thought it would be better to take me away for a few days to a safe place."
Rajneesh said he had no idea where he was being taken and denied he was bound for Bermuda, as law enforcement officials have said.
"I have no intention of fleeing the charges," he said. "I intend to fight it all the way up to the Supreme Court. I have been fighting them and I have been asking for a hearing for four years. Why should I escape now? I have to face it."
Rajneesh also said he believed that the arrest was "politically motivated" and complained that the U.S. marshals were uncivilized and shouted when they arrested him.
Disciples not shaken. Page 3.