Hippie guru to be spared execution

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A FRENCH court said yesterday that the fugitive hippie guru Ira Einhorn, convicted of murder in the United States, may be extradited from France - but only under stringent conditions.

Since it seems unlikely that the state of Pennsylvania will accept the conditions - and in any case Einhorn intends to appeal - the 20-year saga seems certain to go into several more chapters.

A court in Bordeaux, reversing an earlier judgment, said that Einhorn, 58, could be returned to the US, where he has been convicted in his absence of murdering his girlfriend, Holly Maddux, in 1977. But the judges ruled that he should be extradited only if he is promised a new trial. They also demanded a guarantee that, if found guilty a second time, he would not be executed - at his trial in 1993 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The French court ruled that Einhorn, a minor figure in the hippie movement and anti-Vietnam protests in the US in the Sixties and Seventies, could remain at liberty in France pending his appeal. He must report twice a week to the police station nearest to the converted mill in Charente, in south-west France, where he has been living with his Swedish wife for six years.

Mary Maddux, a sister of the murdered woman, attended the hearing. She said she hoped the judgment would bring Einhorn a step nearer to punishment for her sister's death. She had no fear that he would try to leave France. "I know he could run but the whole world knows what he looks like now," she said.

Einhorn denies the murder charge and claims to be the victim of a plot by the US federal government to prevent him revealing secrets about Central Intelligence Agency plans for "psychic warfare".

Holly Maddux disappeared in 1977. Her decomposed body was found in a trunk in Einhorn's apartment in Philadelphia in 1979. In 1981, while under investigation, he fled the US, travelling to Ireland, Britain, Sweden, and finally France.