Interview with Gabriel Andreescu, representative of the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania – Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH)

His preoccupation for human rights is not just a job. Gabriel Andreescu has the sense of justice just like billionaires have the sense of money. He can’t be satisfied when bankruptcy threatens the treasury of the just principles. Because the bankruptcy of justice is the bankruptcy of democracy. And the relationship he has with freedom is a special one, that goes beyond personal interests. That is why he used to be one of the few dissidents of the Ceauşescu regime and he didn’t hesitate to risk both his social position and his physical integrity in order to talk on behalf of everyone’s freedom. You look at Gabriel Andreescu and you feel like saying: he was born for this. Especially since he never shows off. A discreet person, a tenacious fighter, he supports naturally the creeds he believes in. It is not him that is important – he’s just a voice that can’t shut up when justice is gagged. And the role of APADOR-CH representative for the rights of the minorities and the freedom of conscience fits him like a glove. Yoga Magazin has had a dialogue with Gabriel Andreescu about the Romanian authorities, who have demeaned themselves to shamefully set up Gregorian Bivolaru’s file, about the APADOR-CH proofs against the request for the extradition of the MISA mentor, about the undisputable grounds he can invoke in order to obtain the political asylum in Sweden, about the elephant that gave birth to a bead and the “Adrian Minune facing the tantric sexuality” type of complaints.

Interview by Oltea Mutulescu
Photographer Pierre Crié

Which are the institutions that have received the reports about the MISA – Gregorian Bivolaru case after the assault of the authorities last spring?
APADOR-CH sends its annual reports, which include specific documents, to a wide range of internal and international institutions. This takes place one or two months after the end of the calendar year. In certain cases, the reports regarding a particular subject are immediately used in the discussions with the competent actors. However, the report regarding the March 18th, 2004 events has reached the European Commission and the members of the European Parliament. Because of the implication of so many institutions (the Prosecutor’s Office, the Romanian Information System – SRI, the Gendarmerie,  the Police, etc.) that cover one another, I find the presentation of this case on the international scene a very important stage so that the victims can finally be done justice.

What are the international organizations for the protection of the human rights that have been informed as to the abuses directed against the Movement for the Spiritual Integration in the Absolute?
Amnesty International has the information about the case and the people there are aware of its gravity. However, our main partners are the Helsinki Committees that are part of the International Helsinki Federation (IHF), with its headquarters in Vienna. The IHF report, a synthesis of the problems presented in detail by the national committees, is being written these very days. The MISA case will get the place it deserves in the IHF volume for the year 2004 and, as such, it will be a reference for the governments of many countries and for the international organizations.

I hope that Gregorian Bivolaru’s obtaining the political asylum will assure an objective debate over the MISA case.
There has been a campaign against them, I hope to see the yoga community has the opportunity to lead a for campaign, too.

The American Embassy submits a yearly report about the situation of human rights in Romania. However, the MISA case is not even mentioned in the 2004 report. What explanation could there be?
The annual report of the USA State Department regarding the situation of human rights throughout the world is one of the most serious documents in this respect. The main source it uses are the reports submitted by the American embassies, based on their own investigations and on the pieces of information received from non-governmental organizations. The Helsinki committee has been invoked in almost all the reports of the American Embassy. The APADOR-CH report on the March 18th, 2004 events has reached the American Embassy, too, immediately after we wrote it. I was shocked to see it didn’t appear in the USA Department annual Report, which offers so many details on various aspects of the situation of human rights in Romania!

What are the chances for the MISA – Bivolaru case to be correctly perceived abroad? What can the foreign mass-media understand about this case, what can the international organizations understand, given the fact that the anti-MISA and anti-Bivolaru campaign in Romania has been pretty… one-sided?
I admit it won’t be easy to persuade a world that lives normally that there is practically nothing behind the impressive display of forces from the MISA case. I am very confused, too, when I think of it. I can understand the press, their obsession for scandal and show, and the systematic trespassing of their deontology. I can understand the public opinion, which is conservative by nature (from the socio-cultural point of view), receptive to stories about sex, drugs, oriental exoticism, etc. There are all around the world communities and organizations meant to chase the groups that don’t match the social pattern. Especially what many people call “sects” are most likely to become victims of the banality guardians. But I can’t understand the institutions. What could ever explain the huge and illegal display of forces? Speculations have been made: that it was a scenario to cover the Gabriel Bivolaru scandal, or dust in the eyes of the people – in order not to discuss the governmental corruption. I am still not satisfied with these explanations.

What would APADOR-CH plead for, had it been called in court when the Swedish authorities are deciding upon the legality of the extradition request submitted by Romania?
Of course, APADOR-CH is not a part in the Bivolaru trial, it doesn’t plead. However, the association could testify, based on the investigations it has made. It would answer to the allegations it has met in its own research. Or, I can certainly say that using the minor Mădălina Dumitru in the Gregorian Bivolaru case has been an abusive action, unacceptably directed against the principles that impose the protection of the minors, a shameful fabrication of the institutions. I have got arguments, I have got Mădălina’s interview, so I have got evidence against the request for the extradition of Gregorian Bivolaru.

What are the arguments APADOR-CH would invoke to support in front of the Swedish authorities the request for political asylum submitted by yoga professor Gregorian Bivolaru?
The question must be taken somewhat rhetorically because, actually, the organization should undertake institutionally such a plead for the political asylum and it would do this only after a thorough study of the file. For a human rights organization, the presentation and evaluation of the facts have priority to the conclusions. However, I would point out the following elements that are, in my opinion, relevant for a political asylum request: Gregorian Bivolaru has been harassed by the authorities since the 70’s and this harassment – undoubtedly harassment – continued also after 1989. I repeat a fact that is evident: Gregorian Bivolaru has been politically persecuted during the communist regime, fact that explains both his detention during that period and his hospitalization in an unrecoverable mental disorders institution. He has been a victim of the psychiatric abuse. However, after the fall of the system, the odd cooperation between the institutions and the mass-media has turned Gregorian Bivolaru into a pariah of the society. Therefore, because of the campaign they have led, there is a real danger for him to be molested, lynched in the street. And the way in which the Prosecutor’s Office and the instances have acted so far doesn’t show they are searching for the truth and interested in the act of justice. But as I’ve said before: this is no pleading for Gregorian Bivolaru’s theories and options.

Is there a MISA case or a Gregorian Bivolaru case, where the harassment of MISA is rather a strategy for the annihilation of its spiritual mentor?
From the juridical point of view, after the overwhelming accusations launched last March against the Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Absolute (drugs, traffic of weapons and human beings, threats for the national safety, pornography, etc.), no MISA file has been made, a file of the movement.
I don’t think Bivolaru would have become “a case” had it not been for his implication in the activity of the Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Absolute, which has led to the creation of an over 35,000 people community. The propagation of yoga, the spreading of certain techniques and exotic life styles, some of them irritating for the large public – see the topic of urine therapy – to such an extent, have represented indispensable ingredients. If we watch this phenomenon closely, we can notice that it has never involved the people in the street, the press, and the institutions separately. But all of them together, every moment of the evolution of the MISA – Bivolaru case. Thus, everyone could notice a pig, the pig turned into an elephant that, in its turn, gave birth to just a bead – the bead of the accusation that Bivolaru has had sexual relationships with a 17-year-old girl.

Have there been systematic violations of the human rights that can make one think that the yoga practitioners within MISA are persecuted? That there is a campaign against MISA?
I know the cases of some public office workers who have had to give up the yoga practice in order to keep their job. Some of them have been punished and fired, moment when they started talking – this is the case of police officer Lucian Grădinaru. They say there has been a circular letter within the Police General Inspectorate, concerning the yoga practitioners. The setup has become public in the case of the judge Simona Lungu, “guilty” of having had to do with MISA in her life. We have received complains regarding the threat of certain candidates about which people knew that they had attended yoga courses. Happily, they have announced in time about the threat, so they have passed the exam. It is as if we were in the Middle Age. I will never forget Grădinaru’s comment: “Did the fact that I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t eat meat, I didn’t lie, I didn’t receive bribe mean that… I was an undesirable person, a police officer who didn’t deserve to be part of that institution…?”. Who is judging who?

There have been over 1200 articles mentioning the MISA – Gregorian Bivolaru scandal in the press last year. How many times have the media asked APADOR-CH to participate in the documentation process for the articles and shows having this topic?
I have been invited by Antena 1, B1, Realitatea TV, OTV and, of course, Yoga Magazin. So, in five or six cases. But I didn’t feel the journalists were curious to find out the whole truth not even then. I basically had very much information they could have been interested in: I have met Gregorian Bivolaru in the mid 70’s, I have made numerous investigations regarding MISA, I have made certain analyses, I have a certain understanding of this topic, I don’t play the game of some interested groups and don’t hesitate to say what I’m thinking, even if it is about delicate subjects. I repeat, the world doesn’t seem interested in the truth.

“Sect” is one of the favourite labels of the mass-media, when they talk about MISA. Do you think such an accusation is justified?
The word sect should be avoided. It is pejorative, it incites, and it is conceptually inadequate. Let’s say we accept, nonetheless, the term meaning (according to the current definitions) a religious group, recently created, led perhaps by a charismatic leader who is also perceived as a innovator in the spiritual filed. Actually, in Romanian, the word “sectă” corresponds rather to the English “cult”. The Romanian term “culte” is the translation of the English “religious denominations”.
Or, MISA is not a religious group, but one that promotes the philosophy and the ancient yoga techniques. It is true that it does this (in my opinion) in a syncretic-eclectic way that doesn’t suit my tastes. But that is another story.

Tantra has been referred to over and over again as if it were some kind of perverted sexuality, that drives people away from the natural way, proposing them an orgasm that is not only prolonged, but also perfectly controlled through continence. How can the aggressiveness of the Romanian mass-media be explained, the aggressiveness of the public opinion that turns the tantric vision into a new charge in the MISA – Bivolaru case?
Tantra yoga is an ancient practice. It is very efficient, that is why it must be carefully applied. It gives sexuality a completely different dimension from the profane one. The declamations of some pudibunds against Tantra are like Adrian Minune’s complaints regarding Bach’s music. Continence is just one of the technical elements in Tantra. Isn’t it obvious that controlling the orgasm represents an advantage? What would the trump card of those who are unable to do it be?

The mass-media blames Gregorian Bivolaru for serious charges. APADOR-CH, through its public interventions, through its reports, talks about the citizen Bivolaru, whose fundamental rights have been violated. Who is wrong?
Anyone can be wrong. It’s just that our working area is very well defined: we check if the accusations are justified, if human rights have been violated and to what extent. Our current questions are: how do they apply article x from the Penal Code, how do they observe the provisions of the Human Rights European Convention, etc. APADOR-CH doesn’t evaluate the yoga techniques, it doesn’t discuss the efficiency of urine therapy, and it is not interested in who is having relationships with whom. I’m not saying that its activity is reduced to an algorithm and its attitude is a mechanical one. On the contrary, you can’t support the human rights unless you live the human dignity, unless you know how to respect the being you’re dealing with. When you evaluate the implementation of human rights, the essential part is represented by precise laws. Theoretically you can be wrong, but nothing from the APADOR-CH communicate or from the reports I have written about the MISA case seems to have been proved wrong by the further evolution of the events.

What does moving Gregorian Bivolaru’s case abroad imply?
I think the fact that Bivolaru’s case has become an international issue is something positive. We expect a truly independent judge will objectively decide using the data that will be provided. But attention! It’s not only the verdict itself (guilty-innocent) that matters, but also the process: what evidences have been used, how they have been verified, how they have been accepted, how they got to be interpreted. It is very important to have a very detailed description of what happened during the trial in Sweden. Then this information must be made public as much as possible in Romania.

What would granting the political asylum to Gregorian Bivolaru mean now, as we prepare to join the European Union?
I hope it would open again the whole MISA trial. Moreover, it would increase the pressure on the Romanian authorities, in order to get some explanations. It seems strange indeed for a member of the European Union to grant political asylum to a citizen from a future E.U. member. I will mention, however, that granting the political asylum to someone coming from a democratic country is not a completely exceptional case. In 2000, the American Keith Henson has requested political asylum in Canada. He had been sentenced to one year of prison in California for having threatened and harassed some members of the controversial Scientologist Church. Even a Swedish resident almost had to seek refuge in the States in 2004; the Pentecostal pastor Aker Green had been sentenced to one year of prison, as he had formulated offending attacks against the homosexuals during the sermon. The USA have diplomatically persuaded Sweden to give up such a legislation and they have even announced that they would offer political asylum to the pastor. Here are two cases worth pondering upon. It’s about a different vision (even in democratic countries) over the meaning of freedom of religion or of expression; however, not about trespassing elementary aspects regarding a fair trial or the manifestation of the freedom of conscience.

What would the reaction of the Romanian mass-media be if the MISA spiritual mentor received political asylum in Sweden?
I don’t see the Romanian journalists doing mea culpa. Yet I hope that the granting of political asylum to Gregorian Bivolaru will assure a more objective debate over the MISA case. There has been a campaign against them, I hope to see the yoga community has the opportunity to lead a for campaign, too.

What do the APADOR investigations say about Gregorian Bivolaru?
An association like APADOR-CH doesn’t give verdicts saying “this is what Bivolaru is or is not”. It evaluates to what extent the accusations are proved by evidences. According to my investigations, there is no convincing proof. The shocking element in the MISA – Bivolaru case is the flow of accusations the public opinion has been intoxicated with and the inability to prove the crimes. Let us not forget that the MISA members have been systematically supervised for over ten years. How is it possible that, after this long period of research using means offered by the Romanian Information System (SRI), the “proof” still hasn’t appeared? The huge gap between the numerous serious accusations they have started with and the mediocrity of the final file – probable sexual act with a minor who had the right to consent – is meaningful even without an expert eye. The solidarity still shown by the public opinion with the authorities cannot be explained in this case by the lack of logic of those whose are watching the TV, but by the intolerance of the Romanian society, by the satisfaction of seeing that those who are different are being chased. The instruments of public incitement have been largely used during the communism and then again by the Iliescu regime. The MISA case enters the category of the confrontations in Târgu Mureş, the “mineriade”, the attack of the IMGB workers against the people protesting in Universităţii Square. I hope it is the last manifestation of this syndrome of collective fury against the individual freedom or against various solidary groups that don’t match the pattern of the majority.

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