Mass Case

MASS CASE

A. The actual situation

One of the cases that has raised public doubts about the procedural fairness and consistency with fundamental rights is that of the Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Absolute (MISA) [26] . MISA leader Gregorian Bivolaru and other of his disciples have been pursued, arrested and beaten by security forces since the 1970s. It is not excluded, according to the information published in the press, that the pursuit of the MISA leader continued after 1989. To this is added the reluctance of the public regarding yoga techniques, especially in the ’90s, due to the lack of a fair education.

The largest official action against MISA took place in March 2004 – Operation CHRIST. On March 18, 2004, several hundred police officers, gendarmes, and prosecutors forcibly broke into several personal property owned by yoga students, locations where dozens of yoga practitioners lived together following their spiritual practice according to the ashram model .of India. The immersion was broadcast by several television stations and an entire country could see on television screens the forcing of the doors of law enforcement agencies, forcible treatment of people found in buildings (including some foreign nationals) – under the threat of weapons, were summoned to lie on the floor, face down and hands behind the neck; they were not allowed to dress; they were not asked for permission to take pictures. In one case, it appears that there was no search warrant. Dozens of people were taken to police vans and taken to the Prosecutor’s Office, where statements were taken from them. They were not allowed to contact lawyers, on the grounds that they were heard as witnesses, and Romanian legislation provides for the possibility of providing defense only for the parties, not for witnesses [27] .

According to the content of the search warrants, they had to look at ” computer data, user data and information traffic” . However, those searched complained that huge amounts of personal property had been seized [28] , some of which were not mentioned in the search reports and most of them had nothing to do with the reasons mentioned in the warrants; 2 years later, only a third of them were returned to the owners. One of the evidences, the diary of a witness – yoga practitioner, was distributed to the press and made public, although the authorities assure that they kept the confidentiality.

The prosecutor is currently investigating organized crime and human trafficking cases against some members of MISA. Officially, it was noted that, under the cover of introductory courses in yoga practices, the researchers recruited, manipulated and exploited in personal interest the participants – including many minors, whose mental development was endangered [29] . From the contradictory data published in the press, the victims are only 8 people. Some of those investigated were sent to trial. Totally unusual thing in Romania, the whole indictment was posted publicly by the criminal investigation body [30], which in addition to violating the rights to a fair trial and protecting the privacy of those investigated, can be seen as another element of manipulation of public opinion.

B. Situation of MISA files

Despite all the internal investigations of the SCM [31] or the judicial investigations carried out as a result of the complaints addressed, the alleged negative aspects of the conduct of the investigation have not been clarified. Of the 55 criminal complaints filed in May 2004, only 9 were detained for settlement in the Prosecutor’s Office and those for a single offense. The rest received a non-prosecution solution, without the victims being heard, currently this solution is being challenged in the supreme court.

In parallel, on the name of Gregorian Bivolaru – who went to Sweden – two arrest warrants were issued, one for the crime of sexual intercourse with a minor and another for human trafficking. These were the basis for the Romanian state to formulate a request for his extradition. However, the Stockholm Supreme Court concluded that due to the violation of the presumption of innocence, the involvement of politicians [32] and the media in this case (it is even explicitly mentioned that the authorities deliberately turned public opinion against the defendant), justice in Romania cannot ensure a fair trial for the citizen whose extradition was requested, which is why the request of the Romanian state was refused [33]. After another two months, the Swedish government agreed to grant Bivolaru refugee status for political reasons.

C. Possible rights violated

Questions have been raised about the conduct of searches, hearings and investigations into possible violations of several internal provisions (unlawful deprivation of liberty; threat; unjust repression; home invasion; destruction; abuse of office). human rights, abuse of office by restricting rights, attempting to determine false testimony; illegal arrest and abusive investigation; abusive conduct) and international (prohibition of torture; right to liberty; right to a fair trial; right to respect for private and family life freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, prohibition of discrimination, protection of the right to property).

The inefficiency of the internal investigations on the alleged abuses is all the more serious as Bivolaru obtained asylum and then refugee status in a foreign country. From this point of view, the competence or good faith of the Romanian bodies is seriously questioned.