18 July 2012, the European Commission issued their report “Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification for Justice regarding Romania” (M.C.V.) Soteria International follows the appearance of the long awaited report and the reactions it steers in media, with special attention to the MISA case, which is notorious by the Romanian judicial abuses related to it.
Domestic and international media mostly focus on the political implications enforced by the MCV report, and fails to elaborate on the implications for the Romanian people and the human dimension, which should be the focus of any government, local or European!
One exception is Vibeke Sperling in Danish Politiken. Ms. Sperling brings information about an interpellation to the European Commission made by an Italian member of European Parliament, Rita Borsellino, a prominent and prolific fighter against corruption and defender of human rights. The interpellation comes amid the tensions between various political groups related to the top-level political confrontation in Romania, and brings the focus back to the citizens’ rights in compliance with European legislation. The interpellation specifically refers to the situation of freedom of conscience and belief, and whether it is respected in the case of Yoga practitioners in Romania.
Ms. Sperling correctly makes the parallel between this interpellation and the report on Romanian Justice presented by the leader of E.C. José Manuel Barroso to Romanian authorities. She even reveals the fact that during the meeting between José Manuel Barroso and Victor Ponta PM the MISA case was addressed as well as a concern on the situation of the justice system in Romania.
The non-stop judicial abuses against MISA and its founder Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru, are systematically causing a situation of severe danger to members of the yoga school. In 2005 Mr. Bivolaru received political asylum in Sweden, due to Romanian persecutions. Triggered by decades of failure in the judicial system, tens of thousands of Romanian yoga practitioners for years remain in a situation of threat, caused by social exclusion and marginalization,.
Besides the appeal to continue with the reforms in judicial system, the M.C.V. report points to the deficiency of Romanian justice regarding the consistency and transparency of the judicial act, the responsibility of the judicial system and the integrity of the courts. The consequences of such deficiencies are mirrored in the MISA case, in which Gregorian Bivolaru was acquitted by the Trial Court and the Court of Appeals. The High Court for Cassation and Justice later annulled these previous two verdicts, providing illegal motivation for such a decision.
The judicial investigation itself started with abuses of Romanian police against M.I.S.A., in an unprecedented police raid, for post-totalitarian Romania. The lawyers of the defense have on multiple occasions appealed to the court to repair the faults of prosecution, but so far the official appeals were either rejected or left without answer.
The MISA case also mirrors the political interference with the judicial system – another deficiency pointed by the M.C.V. report on justice in Romania. The political trails of the times when the prosecution started in 2004 are surfacing now, and can be observed in the current political unrest in Romania. The prosecutors who were in charge with the investigation of the M.I.S.A. in 2004-2005, George Bălan and his helper Marcel Sâmpetru, are under accusation of corruption, in a criminal case involving also suspect phone calls to the current Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Another political trail is Ioan Rus, Minister of Internal Affairs in the 2000-2004 PSD government (Social Democrat political party of Romania) with Adrian Năstase as Prime Minister. Ioan Rus, who officially ordered the police raid in 2004, has been re-appointed to the same post in May 2012 by Ponta, known as main disciple of Năstase. One of the first official statements of Ioan Rus was his engagement to arrest Gregorian Bivolaru, whom he named an international runaway, thus contesting his Swedish asylum.
The M.I.S.A. case is currently present in political manipulations and fights on the Romanian political scene. The abovementioned George Bălan, used unfounded and biased speculations related to the M.I.S.A. case, to publicly denigrated Romanian member of European Parliament Monica Macovei. Macovei was former Romanian Minister of Justice in the 2004-2007 government, which followed Năstase’s PSD rule. During her administration, Romanian Justice made a major leap towards European norms and received positive appraisal by EU institutions. This contributed greatly to the ascension of Romania into EU in 2007. Monica Macovei was almost the only Romanian official who, publicly denounced the unlawful procedures in the M.I.S.A. case, and called the judiciary system to integrity and correctitude.
We observe how the M.I.S.A. case spreads from manipulation on the political arena, to the stigmatization and marginalization of tens of thousands yoga practitioners in Romania.
Soteria International welcomes the sharp demands of the MCV report and urge the media and the politicians alike to immediately address the human dimension of the deficiencies that are brought to light.
Soteria International calls for the respect of the rule of law in the case against Gregorian Bivolaru, and to ensure Romanian compliance with European norms of justice and fundamental human rights.
We further appeal to the European institutions to monitor the proceedings of the Romanian justice in thes case that in so many ways reflect the problems raised by the MCV report.
The European Commission MCV report http://ec.europa.eu/cvm/docs/com_2012_410_en.pdf
Vibeke Sperling's article in Politiken (18th July 2012 translated into English.)
Global comment – By Vibeke Sperling, East European Correspondent.
“The Misa case shows that Romania has not cut the connection with the obscure practices that the Securitate did under Ceausescu”
Agents from the feared Securitate of the communist time are still playing havoc within the Romanian Government.
The EU has become ever more skeptical about Romania not fulfilling the demands for a constitutional state, which can ensure the human rights of the Romanian 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, who is also an esteemed human rights and anti-Mafia activist, asks the EU commission, what is its “assessment about the reality of the freedom of religion in Romania, and what are the actions for ensuring the protection of the freedom of religion for the yoga practitioners in Romania?” At least 30 European parliamentarians have engaged themselves in this case, including Denmark’s Margrethe Auken (SF).
It is about 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 respect the independency of the court of law, since several lower court authorities already acquitted Bivolaru.
During a meeting between the leader of the EU commission, José Manuel Barroso, and the Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Pontas, last week, about 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 is being treated. Amnesty International and the Romanian Helsinki group repeatedly filed reports about the case, which is being regarded as the biggest human right scandal in Romania.
The persecution of 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 was again legalized, and Gregorian Bivolaru, who was teaching yoga classes in secret, founded Misa, which teaches, amongst other things, Kashmirian philosophy and Indian Ayurveda. The courses started in Bucharest, but they soon spread throughout the entire country.
In March 2004, the prosecutors and secret service started a media campaign against MISA and soldiers were sent to the private homes of yoga practitioners to ransack them and Bivolaru escaped. Then he was 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 security agency, Securitate and that it was those agents who 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 continued, even though the secret service had information that it was former agents from the Securitate of the communist time 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 Ceausescu. 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.