After more than 10 years, the Romanian court completely acquitted the 21 people from MISA yoga school, accused of human trafficking. For ten years, the media has continued a witch hunt on MISA yoga school, who is now fully acquitted of all accusations. The decision found much of the evidence put forth by the prosecution to be unfounded or illegal. Again we face a large scale fake-trial against a spiritual movement, with grave violations of the fundamental rights of thousands of yoga practitioners.
The trial was part of the internationally questioned Romanian campaign against the MISA yoga school. The campaign started in 2004 with the largest police action in post-communist Romanian history. Under the pretext of national security, 300 armed gendarmes raided 16 private houses belonging to yogis.
The yoga school was accused of paramilitary activity and the attack was conducted under the code name „Operation Christ”. The raid was filmed and leaked to the media the same day. The images and reports triggered international criticism among European politicians and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and The Romanian Helsinki Commission APADOR-CH. The Danish Member of European Parliament at that time, Mrs Ulla Sandbaek, advised the leader of the yoga school to immediately flee the persecutions and ask for asylum in Sweden. The Swedish Supreme Court found him innocent and gave him asylum, being persecuted due to his religious beliefs.
For a decade the persecutions continued in Romania against Mr Bivolaru and his students, with long trials based on false accusations, media and social stigmatization of tens of thousands of yogis. Finally the accusations have now been dropped and Romania must aim to heal the wounds caused by the on-going marginalization of a major religious minority.
The political scientist, human rights activist and founder of APADOR-CH Mr Gabriel Andreescu has written two books on the on-going persecution of the Romanian yoga school. He states that there will not be any human rights in Romania until the persecution is stopped, and that the victims must be compensated.
Most of the trials initiated in the persecutions of 2004 have ended in full acquittal. So far no compensation has been discussed. Unfortunately the trial against Mr Bivolaru took a much critiqued turn as he, after being acquitted in first and second instance, was convicted to six years imprisonment in absentia. As Romania is today part of the European Union and Mr Bivolaru received asylum in Sweden because of precisely these persecutions, the conviction followed by a European Arrest Warrant has triggered a unique and highly disturbing situation, where a refugee is both protected and persecuted within for the same accusations within one and the same judicial system.
It is not unusual for spiritual schools to be falsely accused of human trafficking. At the OSCE HDIM 2014 Soteria International highlighted this problem both in Germany (Deutche Academie fur Traditionelles Yoga) and Italy (Ananda Assisi). Ananda Assisi is a Yoga organization which over 2002 - 2009 was the subject of such a judicial inquiry, facing accusations of being a sect which “enslaved” people by forcing them to work without being paid, and other accusations including the premise that Ananda was a “pseudo-religion”. People were harassed and came under social pressure, were taken to court and eventually imprisoned. After more years of investigation, the judge dismissed the case.
Also here the European Union face a major question mark: why do these false accusations continue to surface regarding minor religious or spiritual movements, such as the Romanian yoga school MISA.
The Acquittal of MISA yoga school in the court trial from Cluj is available on this link: http://portal.just.ro/117/SitePages/Dosar.aspx?id_dosar=11700000000035595&id_inst=117