Alpine town vs. saffron gown

Sure, some residents of the standstill town of Winterthur (pop. 88,000) in the German-speaking part of Switzerland had long felt that the place could use a little excitement. But a pop religious cult gone bananas, a running feud between town and saffron gown, allegations of planted bombs in rosebushes and naked-altar ceremonies in postcard-pretty woods? This was more than anybody had bargained for.

On trial in a Swiss federal criminal court last week, wearing a faded orange-pink robe and sandals, was a slender Indian who called himself Swami Omkarananda, a self-proclaimed teacher of mankind and head...

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