We continue with the series of articles regarding the witch-hunt effects in society, displacing the rule of law, when spiritual groups are confronted with allegations of sexual abuse.
In nowadays, it takes very little to create a campaign against spiritual groups. Behind the media campaigns, we most often find just one or two testimonies against the group, while thousands are still in favor. Most often these accusations come from apostates as part of personal vendettas within the groups. (For the role of apostates and media in these judicial campaigns please see our report “The Impact of Apostates’ Activities on the Suppression Associations of Conscience or Belief”, 2012 http://www.soteriainternational.org/sr1205the-impact-of-apostates-activities-)
The police are rightfully obliged to look into any criminal accusations. In the case of spiritual groups, media campaigns as well as police investigations often turn against the whole group, also because the accusations usually are vague.
We have here, a modern version of witch hunts, with a few unreliable witnesses who have managed to create a wave of fear in society.
Robert Spatz (Lama Kunzang) - Ogyen Kunzang Chöling (OKC) - Belgium
On Friday May 31st, 1997, 13:00, 200 gendarmes of the anti-terrorism brigade, heavily armed and wearing black ski masks, broke into the OKC facilities in Brussels, Belgium. After a thorough search, the gendarmes took all the OKC members, including pregnant women and a few children, to the gendarmerie post for interrogation. When this was finished, they were all thrown out in the street, without any transportation or money, between 3 and 5 o'clock in the morning.
At the same time, Robert Spatz (Lama Kunzang), as he descended from his car in a nearby street, was violently seized by a group of gendarmes, thrown to the ground, handcuffed behind his back and carried away in a van, his head wrapped in a black cloth bag, without the least explanation. He was later questioned by the Investigating Judge who directed the entire operation, after which he remained in custody, charged with: breach of trust; criminal conspiracy; scam; money laundering; extortion; forgery and use of forgery; failure to assist someone in danger; and kidnapping with bodily tortures. Robert Spatz stayed in custody until October 7th, 1997, was released on bail for a few days, and taken in custody again on October 16th, now charged with rape and indecent assault. He was again released on December 12th.
His secretary and senior student J.B. was taken into custody on June 6th and released on August 8th.
Robert Spatz's wife and three other senior members of OKC, although not taken in custody, were also charged at the time for similar reasons, except for the charges of rape and indecent assault.
No sentence has been pronounced to date, even when 18 years have passed.
Ogyen Kunzang Chöling (OKC) – France
On the same date and time, Friday May 31st, 1997, 13:00, the OKC retreat and study centre situated on a plateau near Castellane, South of France, was invaded by 150 French gendarmes with the support of two helicopters. No one was taken in custody, but the 30 children attending OKC's boarding school there at the time were gathered, boys and girls together, in a group and examined by a male forensic doctor, who was searching for evidence of sexual abuse. The children were undressed and examined in the absence of their parents or of the educators in charge of the boarding school, without any of the necessary precautions and care appropriate to their young age. In a letter to her mother, one of the little girls described the examination as “disgusting”.
A case was brought against Robert Spatz and the people in charge of the French section of OKC, charged with neglect of care and food by people with authority over children under 15, breach of trust, obtaining unpaid services from persons in a state of weakness, failure to assist someone in danger, involuntary manslaughter and unlawful practice of medicine. By decision of the court, on November 8th, 2001, they were all acquitted, with the exception of a Belgian doctor who was regularly registered at the Belgian Medical Board but not yet at the French Medical Board. He was considered guilty of unlawful practice of medicine but was exempted of a sentence.
Gregorian Bivolaru (Grieg) - MISA yoga school
The Romanian yogi Grieg was persecuted during the Ceausescu times, repeatedly beaten and imprisoned until the fall of communism in 1989. In 1990 the yoga school MISA was founded and soon became a people’s movement in Romania, with tens of thousands of followers. Since 1995 the persecutions resumed with beatings, media campaigns with allegations of sexual perversion within the group.
In 2004 a gigantic anti-terror raid with more than 300 gendarmes and policemen was carried out, accusing Grieg and MISA of human trafficking and sexual abuse. Grieg was granted political asylum in Sweden. In the Swedish Supreme Court the "victim" of the alleged crimes testified that the allegations were false, fabricated by the Romanian security police.
Even so, the Romanian media and judicial system continued the persecutions.
People connected with Grieg and MISA yoga school have lost their jobs, families and were even put under forceful medication due to the witch hunt in the media, in collaboration with police and prosecutors.
In 2013 Grieg was convicted to six years imprisonment for sexual abuse, without being heard in his own trial by the Romanian judges. When asked in court, the witnesses of prosecutors state that they have been contacted by Romanian secret police and prosecutors to be pushed to testify. The judge from the Supreme Court of Romania denied the lawyer’s attempt to make further inquiries into this.
The case has raised serious questions at the top level of EU, regarding judiciary collaborations inside the EU.
Fernando Estevez Griego – Swami Maitreyananda
Fernando Estevez Griego, appeared a few years ago before the Argentinian justice with his lawyers Dr Mauricio de Nuñez, in order to be investigated for all the false denouncements anonymously presented on the Internet, making himself totally available for the fiscal and judicial bodies. The result of two consecutive investigations of one year each concluded with proving Fernando Estevez Griego not guilty.
Everything was ended by an expert who compromised a group of people that encouraged and paid two girls to make false denouncements, when one of them stated before the judicial bodies that in fact Fernando Estevez Griege never violated her, never used any sort of violence to have sexual relations with her, in order to then add a shattering confession that in fact she didn’t even have sex with him at all. What is even more outraging is that a group of persons with economic and defamation purposes have used and manipulated the two girls in order to make false denouncements.
Everything started in the year 2005 when Swami Maitreyananda, Fernando Estevez Griego was president of the International Yoga Federation, founded by the Yoga Federation of India, which joins together laic, national and continental entities of yoga.
Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma)
In 2014, a previous Australian disciple of the ‘hugging saint’, Gayle Tredwell made some serious allegations of sexual and financial abuse from Amma and some of her disciples, in a book she wrote about her time living in Amma’s ashram. Gayle or Gayatri, who was later renamed Swamini Amritaprana was a close disciple of Amma. Gayle Tredwell stayed with Amma for 19 years, becoming Amma’s first western devotee. She left the organization in late 1999. Initially Tredwell wrote of ‘scheming, plotting, planning and suspicion’ and also ‘terrorism – in a subtle sense, not with guns or anything’. Other claims include ones of sexual abuse (by a swami from Amma’s ashram), violence (emotional, physical and psychological) and financial abuse (giving money to family and putting them up in palatial houses). Claims have also been made that Amma has been having sexual relations with her disciples. Amma’s response has always been one of love and forgiveness. The mass media in India also added their stamp to the scandal.