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Fugitive put on plane to U.S. to face murder charge

Two decades after he fled the United States to avoid facing murder charges, Ira Einhorn, the former counterculture guru and Vietnam-era anti-war activist, was headed to Philadelphia late Thursday to face charges that he killed his ex-girlfriend and stuffed her body in a trunk.

France's highest appeals body ordered Einhorn's extradition to the United States a week ago, but the government put the transfer on hold at the request of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. On Thursday, that court said it had no objections to Einhorn's immediate extradition, although it did agree to look again at his case in September.

French police took Einhorn, 61, from his home in the southwestern French village of Champagne-Mouton to waiting American officials at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris. He was being flown by private charter to Philadelphia and was scheduled to land about 1 a.m. EDT.

When he was ordered sent home last week, Einhorn cut his throat with a knife in a dramatic suicide bid considered more theatrical than life-threatening; he went to the hospital and was bandaged but not seriously hurt.

This time, Einhorn seemed resigned to his return to American soil. Wednesday night, he held his own "Last Supper" party, complete with party lights and wine served in plastic cups. And he has held a series of interviews, in which he told reporters that he would no longer resist returning home.

"I'm innocent," he said Thursday afternoon to reporters gathered outside his home, a converted windmill. "I will be happy to go to the U.S. if the court gives me a new trial."

He was already tried in absentia and convicted of the 1977 murder of his ex-girlfriend Holly Maddux. But to smooth the way for Einhorn's extradition, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a special law that would grant him a new trial if he were returned.

There was also a promise from U.S. authorities that Einhorn would not face the death penalty if convicted at his new trial.

In Philadelphia, officials awaited the return of the former leftist radical known as "The Unicorn."

Philadelphia district attorney Lynne Abraham said, "I am concentrating my entire energy on making sure that he returns. He's sitting in his back yard, he's thumbing his nose at us and laughing at the games that he's played."

Maddux's body was found in a trunk inside the apartment she and Einhorn shared. He fled in 1981 before his murder trial, and he remained on the run, living in various countries and changing identities before he was discovered in June 1997 living with his new Swedish wife in the wine-growing region of southwestern France.

He has fought extradition, proclaiming his innocence and saying he is a victim of a conspiracy by the CIA because of his past radical activities.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.