Interview with Ulla Sandbaeck
Yogaesoteric: What is your position regarding M.I.S.A. and Gregorian Bivolaru? Do you belong to this or what is your interest in it?
Ulla Sandbaeck: I have no personal interest in M.I.S.A. I met Grieg… I believe it was two years ago when he came to the Yoga School in Denmark and he had some problem with the visa. At that time I was member of the European Parliament and I knew that several hundreds of people were waiting for him in the camp in Denmark and being a parliamentarian I volunteered to go with him to the authorities to make sure that he had his visa and I personally guaranteed (that I was involved in his state) which made it easier to get the visa. Afterwards he invited me to spend a week in the summer camp in Costinesti, which subsequently I did. So in that time I got in contact with M.I.S.A. and I understood what M.I.S.A. stood for and that it was something that I could fully accept… that, of course, none of the accusations which are presently raised against M.I.S.A. have any slight connection with truth.
Yogaesoteric: Why did you get involved to sustain Gregorian Bivolaru?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Because in the European Parliament I was working with human rights, I think it’s one of the most important things for a politician to make sure that human rights are being respected everywhere. And obviously if a person whom you know and whom you like is being persecuted, as a parliamentarian you would get directly involved in trying to protect that person’s human rights, but I would have tried to protect Grieg’s human rights even if I hadn’t known him. Whenever I have been approached to somebody who wanted me to get involved in a human rights situation I’ve done it.
Yogaesoteric: What is your opinion about the way the case is now unfolding in Sweden? Can you estimate the chances for him to get asylum or to be extradited?
Ulla Sandbaeck: I think it’s a farce the way the case is unfolding, I mean first there is one accusation, then there is another accusation. At least I’m glad that the press in Sweden seems to have changed their point of view. I hope very much that the authorities in Sweden are going to look into the case individually, that they are not just going to say: “This is Romania, Romania is a safe country, we are going to extradite him”, because that would really be a catastrophe. I think if there is any fairness in the system in Sweden, they can’t extradite him. I’m worried, I must say, because systems are not always fair and if they have a rule and they don’t even check into the case, just follow the rules, that everybody can be extradited no matter what; if we’re talking about Romania then I’m very worried. That’s why I’m trying to contact members of the Swedish Parliament and I hope the Danish members of Parliament will do the same, so that there can be a focus on this matter and that the Swedish authorities will not approve the extradition.
Yogaesoteric: You think it’s correct what the Romanian media said that Grieg was captured by Interpol while they were searching in numberless yoga schools in Europe?
Ulla Sandbaeck: I know for a fact that this is not correct, because I know that Grieg came directly to the Swedish authorities; that he was asking for political asylum, that he even stated that there was a warrant for his arrest in his home country. He didn’t try to hide anything. He presented himself to the authorities, asking for political asylum and made everything completely clear there.
Yogaesoteric: What is your opinion about the fairness, the correctitude of the campaign against Gregorian Bivolaru, like this first warrant, then the second warrant coming immediately?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Of course, there is no fairness in this and for me it’s completely clear that this is a political persecution, that Grieg insists that the country should be democratic. He insists that democracy is threatened not only in Romania, but other places in the world. Its issues are mainly in Romania, and because of that the Romanian authorities want to silence him. They know that if anybody can protect democracy in Romania he would be one of those who can do it, and, since they don’t want a democratic Romania, they are trying to silence him in this way. And I just hope and pray that this is not going to happen, because I share his deep worry about democracy not only in Romania, but in the rest of the world. But obviously Romania is in such a bad state that it shouldn’t be a member of the European Union if it doesn’t change drastically.
Yogaesoteric: In Romania there is still a kind of communist mentality regarding the human rights. Therefore Gregorian Bivolaru is presented like already guilty in the media, even if he had no trial in Romania. Can you say something about how the fact that the person is considered guilty from the very begining breaks the human rights?
Ulla Sandbaeck: In the E.U. a person is considered not guilty until proven guilty and this is a basic human right – you don’t have to prove that you are not guilty. The state has to prove that you are guilty and until such a proof is there, this has to be considered not guilty and this is basic. Every civilized country has this rule; if it’s not the case in Romania, Romania clearly doesn’t fulfill the obligations to be a member of the E.U.
Yogaesoteric: Can you tell us something about the press conference in Malmo you participated, about the impact this press conference had?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Well, it was quite clear that in the beginning the atmosphere among the journalists was quite hostile, but it changed drastically when they asked how comes that a person could be pictured in such a different way by us and by the Romanian media. So we explained to them that the Romanian media, as you already said, have convicted Grieg and the Romanian media are owned by people who are very close to the government and they didn’t want to find the truth. They just wanted to make a false picture of Grieg and they wanted to spread that picture in other countries. At the beginning it seemed to work, but with the press conference it didn’t work anymore. The Swedish media, I believe, found more credibility in what we said than in what the Romanian media said. That’s obviously why the Romanian authorities have now tried to come up with a new accusation.
Yogaesoteric: So is the image of Gregorian Bivolaru in the Swedish media different now than before?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Yes, it is…
Yogaesoteric: Do you consider that the Swedish authorities can protect Gregorian Bivolaru against the abuses of the Romanian authorities?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Yes, if they don’t extradite him, obviously, they can. I believe if they are going to look into the accusations they are going to find that he was framed and they are going to acquit him. Of course, the Romanian authorities cannot raise this issue again. If they don’t extradite him, I believe he will be completely protected; he will have a fair trial in Sweden.
Yogaesoteric: You know the fact that in Romania the media is also trying to destroy your image, by minimizing the support you give to Gregorian Bivolaru. An example: they stress very much on your position about homosexuality and the fact that Grieg “was sodomizing three minors”?!?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Well, I’ve heard I’m accused of being the leader in protecting the homosexuals. We had in the European Parliament a report. I believe it was an initial report prepared by I. Schiebelt, where she stressed that homosexuals should have the same human rights as everybody else and in several countries of the E.U. the homosexuals actually have the right to inherit each other; if one has a house the other one has the right to inherit it; they have the same rights as the married couples. I voted in favor of that, as I believe that homosexuals should have equal rights. It doesn’t reflect on what I personally mean about homosexuality, but obviously the homosexuals should have equal rights. I have in no way been a leading figure in the European Parliament, but I voted in favor for such a report.
Yogaesoteric: So it was just a vote, not an activity…?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Yes, a vote, yes, a vote.
Yogaesoteric: Also the Romanian media is stressing the fact that you committed crime by meeting Gregorian Bivolaru as he was followed by Interpol and you didn’t give him to the Police. Can you clarify this aspect?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Grieg came to ask political asylum in Sweden; I don’t live in Sweden. I had contact with Grieg before he left Romania, by telephone and, obviously I had no contact with him and he wasn’t followed by Interpol. He went straight to the Swedish authorities where he was presented with the fact that he was wanted by the Interpol, which came as a very big surprise to him and, certainly, also to me, because neither of us knew about anything of the kind.
Yogaesoteric: Do you think about further actions in this case?
Ulla Sandbaeck: Yes, I will keep trying to talk to Swedish parliamentarians; I believe they probably are those who can in the easiest way make sure that Grieg is not extradited. They can raise it in the Human Rights Committee in the Swedish Parliament and I’m also going to make a follow up in the E.U. I’m going to contact people that I know there. I know that the Green Party in the E.U. already raised certain questions about Romania and the compatibility of the Romanian laws with the E.U. laws and these things must change. So I’m going to contact the Green Group in the European Parliament and I’ll cooperate with them and next time when Romania is going to be on the agenda I’m going to make sure that those people have looked into the facts. Of course, if Grieg is extradited, this is one scenario and then I’m really going to work strongly with the European parliament and ask my colleagues to contact the Romanian authorities and make sure that he is released through the E.U. system. But I hope and do believe that he won’t be extradited and then, of course, just for the benefit of other Romanians, I’ll try to make sure that Romania is going to behave if they want to be member of the E.U.
Yogaesoteric: So the people have very good reason to be optimistic, since you are helping in this case?
Ulla Sandbaeck: I hope so…
For YogaEsoteric Cătălin Dobrescu
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