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.