Conductor faces cult death trial
From BBC News - Tuesday, 24 October 2006
A Franco-Swiss orchestra conductor has gone on trial in France for the second time over alleged involvement in the deaths of members of a doomsday cult.
Michel Tabachnik was cleared by a French court in 2001, but prosecutors appealed against the verdict. The 64 year old is being charged over the deaths of 16 people who were found in a forest in the French Alps in 1995. Prosecutors say he incited members of the Order of the Solar Temple to commit mass suicide. He denies the charge.
Some 74 members of the cult died in the 1990s. Their bodies were found in woodland clearings in Switzerland, Canada and France.
The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, is being held in the south-eastern city of Grenoble. Mr Tabachnik faces the charge of criminal association, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term.
Mr Tabachnik studied under the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez and held orchestral posts in Canada, Portugal and France.
Doomsday cult leader Tabachnik back in court
From ABS-CBN Interactive - November 18, 2006
Franco-Swiss conductor Michel Tabachnik is due to go back on trial in France on Tuesday, four years after he was acquitted of conspiring to brainwash 74 members of the Solar Temple doomsday cult into accepting death by occult ritual.
The 64-year-old musician is now being charged with "criminal conspiracy" in relation to 16 of those cult members, three of them children, whose charred bodies were discovered in the French Alps in 1995.
On June 25, 2001, French judges cleared Tabachnik of the brainwashing charges due to lack of evidence. But prosecutors, which had accused him of playing a key role in convincing cult members willingly to go to their deaths, lodged an appeal.
The new court case, in the southwestern city of Grenoble, was expected to last two weeks.
The Solar Temple gained worldwide notoriety between 1994 and 1997, when the burnt bodies of 74 of its members were found in remote woodland clearings in Switzerland, Canada and then France.
Several of the dead had been shot in the head or asphyxiated in what were apparently ritual murders, although some are thought to have been willing participants in mass suicides.
Among the dead were the two founders of the sect, Luc Jouret and Jo Di Mambro. The two men allegedly milked followers of their money and convinced them that they must die by burning in order to attain bliss in the afterworld.
During his trial in 2001, Tabachnik admitted to belonging to the Order of the Solar Temple.
But he denied charges that his writings -- inspired by a mixture of occult, New Age and Rosicrucian theories -- had prepared the way for the cult members' deaths.
Central to the prosecution's case in 2001 was the charge that Tabachnik had taken part in meetings of the Solar Temple, held in France in July and September 1994, at which he "announced the winding-up of the group and the conclusion of its mission".
The judges concluded Tabachnik could have made the announcement to help Jouret and Di Mambro paint the subsequent murders as a spiritual ritual. But the conductor could just as easily have called for the sect to be wound up because his own philosophy had evolved, as expressed in tracts he had written at the time, they ruled.
Born in Geneva in 1942, Tabachnik studied under French conductor Pierre Boulez and earned a reputation for his interpretation of contemporary music, holding orchestral posts in Canada, Portugal and France.
Swiss conductor on trial again in 1994-95 Solar Temple ritual deaths
From Canada.com - Wednesday, October 25, 2006
A Swiss orchestra conductor went on trial again Tuesday for his alleged role in a doomsday cult that lost dozens of members in ritual deaths in France, Switzerland and Canada.
A French court acquitted Michel Tabachnik of "criminal association" in the case in 2001. Prosecutors appealed and, on Tuesday, a court in Grenoble reopened the proceedings. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Tabachnik is accused of contributing to the deaths of members of the Switzerland-based Order of the Solar Temple. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The criminal association charge carries a maximum 10-year prison term.
While the earlier trial attracted widespread attention, only a half-dozen people attended Tuesday's trial opening. The judge said several witnesses had ignored summonses for the current proceedings.
The Order of the Solar Temple lost 69 members in mass suicides in Switzerland, Canada and France between 1994 and 1995, according to the prosecutor's office. Five others died in a second incident in Canada in 1997.
In October 1994, the bodies of 48 Solar Temple members were found in a burned-out farmhouse and three chalets in Switzerland, while five others were found in a burned-out condominium in Morin Heights, Que., north of Montreal.
They included the cult's charismatic leader, Luc Jouret, a Belgian homeopath, and another leader, Joseph Di Mambro, a Canadian. The others included the former mayor of Richelieu, Que., a Quebec City journalist and a Hydro-Quebec vice-president.
In 1995, French police discovered the charred remains of 14 victims, including three children, in a forest clearing near Grenoble at the foot of the French Alps. The 14 bodies were arranged in a star formation. Two other bodies were found nearby.
Then, in March 1997, five others members of the cult died in a house fire in St.-Casimir, Que.. Four of them died of asphyxiation in the fire, while the fifth died after having ingested a large of dose of a drug found in all the bodies.
Swiss authorities failed to establish any link between the cult and Tabachnik. However, French prosecutor Pierre-Marie Cuny accused Tabachnik of supporting Di Mambo and a French investigating magistrate decided there was enough evidence to put the conductor on trial.
Tabachnik, who studied under conductor Pierre Boulez and composer Iannis Xenakis, has led the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lorraine, France, and orchestras in Canada and in New York.
Swiss Conductor Michel Tabachnik on Trial in Connection With Cult Suicides
By Vivien Schweitzer
From PlaybillArts.com - 26 Oct 2006
Swiss conductor Michel Tabachnik went on trial on Monday (October 23) for his alleged role in dozens of ritual killings perpetrated by a cult called the Order of the Solar Temple, reports the Associated Press.
The Order of the Solar Temple lost 68 members in mass suicides in Switzerland, Canada and France between 1994 and 1995, according to the AP. In one incident fourteen members of the cult were found burnt and lying in a star formation in the French Alps.
This is the second time that Tabachnik, who studied with Pierre Boulez and Iannis Xenakis, has been on trial for contributing to the deaths of cult members. A French court acquitted Tabachnik, 61, of "criminal association" in the case in 2001, according to the AP. Prosecutors appealed and a court in Grenoble reopened the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
Tabachnik stands accused of supporting the cult's founder and leader, Joseph di Mambo, who died in a 1994 mass suicide. The conductor has denied the charges; if convicted, he faces a maximum 10-year prison term. Swiss authorities investigating the 1994 deaths failed to establish any link between the cult and Tabachnik, according to the AP.
According to The Guardian of London, Tabachnik, whose first wife died in one of the cult's mass suicides, wept during his court appearance.
Di Mambo founded the cult in the 1980s and pursued wealthy followers, persuading them to part with their money in return for the chance to join a small elite who would be reborn on a star called Sirius. They would only reach Sirius by ritualized suicide.
Conductor on trial over cult killings in France, Switzerland and Canada
By Angelique Chrisafis
From the Guardian - Wednesday October 25, 2006
A Swiss orchestra conductor went on trial for the second time yesterday for his alleged role in a doomsday cult which lost dozens of members in ritual killings in Canada and Europe.
Michel Tabachnik, 61, a composer who has led major orchestras in Canada, Portugal and France, is accused of criminal association and contributing to the deaths of members of the Order of the Solar Temple - 14 of whom were found burnt and lying in a star formation in a clearing in the French Alps in 1995.
Mr Tabachnik was acquitted of the same charges in 2001, but French prosecutors appealed and a new trial began in Grenoble yesterday. The conductor, whose first wife died in one of the cult's ritual mass suicides, denies the charges and wept during his court appearance.
The apocalyptic cult was founded in the 1980s by a French Canadian, Joseph di Mambro, based on a mixture of medieval Templar beliefs and new age fantasy. Di Mambro courted wealthy followers, persuading them to give up large sums of money in the belief that they would become part of a small elite destined to be reborn on a star called Sirius.
Members were told they could only reach Sirius by "death voyages" or ritualised suicide. In 1994 and 1995, 68 were found dead in Switzerland, Canada and France in apparent mass suicides. Most of the bodies were found gassed or shot in two villages in Switzerland. One group was arranged in a star formation in a concealed chamber beneath a remote farmhouse in the village of Cheiry.
Later 16 bodies, including three children, were found in a clearing in the French Alps known as the Well of Hell. Fourteen had been shot in the head, laid out in a star and burnt. An investigating judge decided two cult leaders had killed the others and then themselves, but some relatives believe the perpetrators fled and were never caught.
Mr Tabachnik is accused of writing and distributed esoteric texts intended to incite members to believe their death would lead to redemption, so creating "a dynamic towards murder".
During his first trial, prosecutors said Mr Tabachnik had taken part in crucial meetings discussing the end of the cult's mission. Months later, the mass suicides took place. Mr Tabachnik denied culpability, saying he had "done nothing wrong" and had been manipulated by the cult's leaders. His lawyers said he was being used as a scapegoat by the justice system. Judges were unable to prove a link between the texts and the suicides.
This trial is expected to last two weeks.