The Romanian Democracy Crisis Brings To International Attention Cases Of Human Rights Violation

Today an article appeared in Politiken, one of Denmark’s highest circulating and most well-respected newspapers, exposing the machinations in the MISA-Gregorian Bivolaru case and the political impact of this case on an international level. It is written by prolific investigative journalist, Vibeke Sperling, who has written unbiased articles about the MISA case before.

Sperling has done an excellent job in presenting some of the most important elements in this case and bringing to the public eye some issues which have not been properly addressed until now. This includes the continued involvement of the Romanian Securitate (secret service) even after the fall of communism, which explains much of the questionable involvement of the authorities and the media, especially in the last 16 years.
Sperling very accurately addresses the issue of human rights abuse in the MISA case and the impact this has on Romania’s status within the EU. She provides a fair account of the facts, which is a breath of fresh air after all the negative and damaging press it has attracted throughout the years.

About the Author, Vibeke Sperling

PolitikenVibeke Sperling (1945 -) is an acknowledged Danish journalist and author with a long career as a foreign correspondent and editor of international politics for several of the biggest Danish newspapers and television stations such as Danmarks Radio, DR2, Dagbladet Information and Politiken.

Her area of specialization is Eastern Europe and she has become well known in the Danish, as well as the international media, for her uncompromising reports on human and social injustice, as well as the intelligent analysis of complicated political matters related to the Eastern Bloc.

vibekeVibeke Sperling was one of the few mainstream journalists who already in March 2004 dared to challenge the widespread corruption in the Romanian media and political system concerning the MISA case and the severe violations of the human rights of members of the Romanian yoga school, and published several article on the case from 2004 – 2007.

From 1999 – 2002 she was appointed special board member of DCHF, The Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies.

Here is her article of 18th July 2012 translated into English.

Case about Yoga Club Is Now the Biggest Case of Human Rights Violation in Romania

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.

Yoga teacher, Gregorian Bivolaru

Yoga-teacher-Gregorian-BivolaruIn 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.

vibeke.sperling@pol.dk