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.