42 yogis risk imprisonment in an ongoing Romanian justice scandal.
The leader of the yoga movement, Mr. Bivolaru, has been protected by the Swedish authorities against the Romanian persecutions since 2005. 25-80 other yogis have had to leave their jobs, families and homes as a direct result of the abusive judicial and media campaign against the yoga movement MISA.
Despite strong international criticism from human rights organizations, politicians and experts, the case against the yogis is now in the Supreme Court of Romania where the verdict will be given on the 21st March.
At the OSCE Conference in Bucharest, 7-8 June 2007, the honorary secretary of the International Yoga Federation for Scandinavian countries, Mr. Mihai Stoian contributed with the report Religious Discrimination of MISA - a Political “Exchange Currency”and since then Soteria International has monitored and raised the MISA case in international forums, together with politicians, experts and other human rights organizations. From 2004 – 2007 Amnesty International, APADOR-CH (Helsinki Committee), SOJUST (SOciety for JUStice) and the Swedish Supreme Court, reported the treatment of members of MISA is not in line with international treatises on human rights. Soteria has found and reported that the highly criticized trials and collaboration between prosecutor, police and media has continued almost unaltered up until the present day and the coming verdict of the Romanian Supreme Court.
In the OSCE ODIHR HDIM 2007, Soteria International made two contributions based on investigations into the MISA case. The same year the case was also raised the Swedish OSCE NGO-network and the Romanian delegation replied to the statements given.
In On the Rule of Law – the right for a fair trial - With examples from the violation of the right for a fair trial in Romania Soteria describes the obstructions of a free trial in the MISA case. The well-documented problem with corruption in the Romanian judicial system. The close connection between police, prosecutor and media creating a strong and univocal opinion. Along with the contribution an annex with Soteria International’s full report of the violations of article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights was admitted. The annex follows the conclusions of the SOJUST report of 2006 where section 3 in chapter 5 analyzes the MISA case.
In the Statement on The lack of division of power in uni-cultural societies" the MISA case illustrates the de facto insufficient division of power in a uni-cultural society, such as post-communist Romania. Examples on how prosecutor, police and media collaborate in a tendency to demonize MISA and its members. Police video recordings of the raiding of 16 private houses were broadcast on TV the same afternoon, showing humiliating images of nudity, including minors. Confiscated private photos and diaries end up in the tabloid magazines and the prosecutor’s indictments are published in newspapers the same day they are presented in court. Transcripts from the governing party (PSD) describe Mr. Bivolaru as “the devil”. A police officer refers to media in declaring why a young woman from MISA was illegally forced to have medical treatment: “Everyone knows yoga is dangerous. I did her a favor to bring her out of it”.
In the OSCE ODIHR HDIM 2008, Soteria International again raises the question of MISA in a working session with the contribution, A follow-up on the MISA case in Romania as a call for the development of the Spiritual Human Rights. It points to the underlying structural problems hindering a just development in the MISA case even after the international critique has led both the Romanian Prime Minister Tariceanu and Minster of Justice Macovei to publicly question the full legality of the processes surrounding the MISA case. The contribution finds the failing to secure human rights in this case to be conditioned by the Romanian society’s lack of tools for properly assessing spiritual activities and practice beyond established religion.
In Reflections on Legislation on Spirituality experiences from the MISA case form a background to question if the legislative framework is based on enough understanding of spiritual practice to ensure that such judicial scandals will not be repeated.
For reports on the MISA case prior to 2007, we refer to the reports of Amnesty International, APADOR-CH, SOJUST, the report of Vicar Nylund, Reprimarea miscarii yoga in anii 80 (Repression of the yoga movement in the 80’s) by Dr. Andreescu, and the decision of the Swedish Supreme Court (matter O 2913-05)
In light of current reports, this has proved to be a very valid assessment. Soteria expresses its concern that the final stage of the trial might be impeded by unjust interests, and therefore, underlines the urgency of the case receiving attention by the rightful forums.