21 February 2015 — On the 11th of February 2015, the proceedings against the MISA Yoga group in Romania has been concluded with full acquittal of the 21 defendants by the Court. The group, founded by the political refugee Gregorian Bivolaru, who had been heavily persecuted during the Ceausescu regime, endured, within the “Operation Jesus Christ”, a violent campaign started in 2004 with a police raid that deeply disturbed the representatives of various European nations and of ONGs such as Amnesty International, due to the shocking violations of human rights perpetrated against the group. The Romanian judgment comes after ten years of suffering from the members of MISA, presented by the media as a “cult” engaged in human beings traffic and other serious crimes, giving rise to many years of international controversies.
A key factor has been the ONGs contribution in support of the group. Amongst the ONGs, an outstanding role has been the one of Soteria International, association member of FOB (European Federation for Freedom of Belief) and the one of the Federation itself that, in the hearing phase, made available to the defense counsel a memory confuting the definition of “cult” the prosecution had labeled the MISA Yoga association with. The common effort of the various ONG, amongst which is noted also Layms, another FOB member, allowed the defense counsel to provide overwhelming evidence during the hearing phase.
Amongst the rest, are noted the reconstruction provided by Raffaella Di Marzio and Camillo Maffia, both members of the FOB’s Executive Committee, who had submitted to the attention of the Commission on Human Rights of the Senate, some reflections on the MISA question in Romania and Italy in the wake of the side-event OSCE/ODIHR organized by Soteria on the 26th September 2013 at Warsaw, “Institutional Discrimination and Stigmatisation of Religious and Spiritual Minorities; Italy and Romania”, they had participated to along with the president of Human Rights Without Frontiers, Willy Fautré, the yoga practitioner Dan Spatariu, the activist Roberta Rendina and the radical senator Marco Perduca, also, to date, member of the Scientific Commission of FOB.
During the event, parallel to the Romanian matter, the seriousness of the Italian situation had been carefully looked into, receiving three recommendations about the seriousness of the violations of religious freedom represented, according to the ONG, by the activities of the Squadra Anti-Sette (Anti-cult Squad) belonging to the State Police, which problem was brought up in that venue the following year in relation to the case Ananda Assisi, another yoga group accused of being a dangerous “cult” and fully acquitted after years of investigations, suffering and pillorying by the media.
The case MISA Yoga has been followed in Italy too, after the investigations done by the Squadra Anti-Sette, by a very violent campaign. To date, despite the noise from the media and the impact of the blitz and of the raids in December 2012 on the members of the group, nothing is known yet about the Italian affair: for sure the conclusion of the Romanian trial must people think over how fast an arbitrary accusation can get a religious or spiritual movement labeled as a sect, and wonder how reliable the accusations against MISA Yoga can be in Italy too. Therefore, if on one hand the happy conclusion of the Romanian trial is a big victory for the human rights, on the other hand it is necessary for us to consider the seriousness of the anti-cult phenomenon and the continual danger it represents for innocuous religious minorities, targeted with stigmatization, discrimination and serious violations of human rights.
The Executive Committee of F.O.B. – Freedom of Belief
European Federation for Freedom Of Belief