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Europe shouts the truth out loud, Romania pretends to be deaf: the democracy crisis in Romania brings the MISA case to international attention again

The Danish media points out again at the MISA case as being a severe violation of the human rights that questions Romania’s status as an European state


While the Romanian authorities strive to hide under the doormat the inconvenient truth about the persecutions against yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru and hundreds of MISA members and students, across borders this scandal brings more and more attention from mass media, NGO activists and tens of European Parliament Members. We present below an article published on July 19, in Politiken, one of the most highly regarded newspapers in Denmark.


Yoga School Case Is Now the Biggest Case of Human Rights Violation in Romania

By Vibeke Sperling

The MISA case shows that Romania has not cut the connection with the obscure practices of the Securitate intelligence service under Ceausescu
Agents of the feared Securitate of the communist times are still playing havoc within the Romanian Government

The EU has become even more skeptical about Romania not fulfilling the demands for a constitutional state, which can ensure the human rights of its people. And now a member of the European Parliament has fueled the discussion by posing questions about a specifically embarrassing case. Member of Parliament Rita Borsellino, an esteemed human rights and anti-Mafia activist, asks the EU Commission what is its “assessment on the reality of the freedom of religion in Romania, and what are the actions taken to ensure the protection of the freedom of religion for the yoga practitioners in Romania?” At least 30 European parliamentarians have engaged in this case, including Denmark’s Margrethe Auken (SF).
The issue is the so-called MISA case, in which a Romanian yoga movement is indicted for terror, among other things. This case has been under surveillance internationally, and especially by the EU, ever since the founder and leader of the movement, Gregorian Bivolaru, received political asylum in Sweden in 2005. The EU commission recommended the Romanian government to respect the independency of justice, since several lower court authorities already acquitted Bivolaru.
During a meeting last week between the leader of the EU Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, on the concerns which the EU has about Romania, the MISA case was also addressed, since this case displays a serious violation of human rights in an EU country.
In 2004, the Romanian yoga school went through an anti-terror raid by special anti-terror forces, based on false charges. For the moment, the chief prosecutor behind the raid on MISA, George Balan, is being investigated for misuse of power and corruption. But the case still continues against Bivolaru in spite of his political asylum in Sweden. Members of all the different groups in the European Parliament have signed letters to the Romanian Government, in which they express their alarm and concern for the way Bivolaru and MISA are being treated. Amnesty International and the Romanian Helsinki group repeatedly filed reports about the case, which is being regarded as the biggest human rights scandal in Romania.
The persecution against Bivolaru started all the way back in the communist time. In 1972 he was accused of spreading pornography, but received amnesty and was released before he finished the 1 year sentence. In 1984 he was accused of conspiring against Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu. After the Romanian revolution in 1989, yoga practice, forbidden during communism, was again legalized, and Gregorian Bivolaru, who was teaching yoga classes in secret, founded MISA, which teaches Kashmirian philosophy and Indian Ayurveda, among other things. The courses started in Bucharest, but they soon spread throughout the entire country.
In March 2004, the prosecutors and the intelligence service started a media campaign against MISA and soldiers were sent to the private homes of yoga practitioners to ransack them. Bivolaru was then accused of tax evasion. How come this accusation can be found again and again in former communist countries that suffer from a lack of democracy? Bivolaru is still accused of eight different crimes which include sex with a minor and illegally leaving the country. Is it really possible to illegally leave an EU country?
After a series of questions about the past of Bivolaru, in July 2011 a Romanian court of justice decided that he had been “politically persecuted” during the communist regime. After that it was revealed that some journalists continued the cooperation with former agents from the previously feared intelligence agency, Securitate, and that those agents were behind the campaign against the yoga practitioners, which continued after the fall of communism. The spokesman for the successor of the Securitate, SRI, admitted that in the last 16 years SRI agents have been working undercover as journalists controlling the campaign against yoga practitioners in general and especially against Bivolaru.
A Romanian Parliament committee started an investigation in 2006 but still the case against Bivolaru and MISA continues, even though the secret service had information that it was former agents from the Securitate that wanted to prove that the accusations against him from back then were still valid. This raises the question of how many ghosts from the past are still haunting the Romanian state apparatus, since the old accusations are not just being withdrawn.
Another grotesque detail in this whole story is that the Romanian authorities chose to call it “Operation Christ”. Several times a final verdict has been postponed and the “operation” has been pushed from one court to the other. And now the Supreme Court in Romania has taken the amazing decision that the case has to be entirely redone! What the actual meaning of this is, still remains uncertain, but one thing seems to be clear. The MISA case includes the biggest police action in the country since Ceausescu, and the MISA case shows that Romania did not put an end to the obscure practices of the Securitate during the dictatorship. The demand from the EU should therefore include that the old agents are finally being purged. Without this, a constitutional state is a “city in Russia” [translation note: it means a city that cannot be found] in the poorhouse of EU.

About the author
Vibeke Sperling (1945 - ) is an acknowledged Danish journalist and author with a long career as a foreign correspondent and editor of international politics for some of the biggest Danish media institutions, such as Danmarks Radio, DR2, Dagbladet Information and Politiken.
Her area of specialization is Eastern Europe and she has become well known in the Danish, as well as in the international media, for her uncompromising reports on human and social injustice, as well as for the intelligent analysis of complicated political matters related to the Eastern Bloc.
Vibeke Sperling was one of the few mainstream journalists who already in March 2004 dared to challenge the widespread corruption in the Romanian media and political system concerning the MISA case and the severe violations of the human rights against the members of the Romanian yoga school. She published several articles on the case from 2004 to 2007.
From 1999 to 2002, Sperling she was appointed special board member of DCHF, The Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies.
 
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