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France arrests guru and 40 others in raids on yoga sect

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
France arrests guru and 40 others in raids on yoga sect
Gregorian Bivolaru (L), the spiritual leader of MISA sect, photographed in 2004. Photo by STRINGER / AFP

French authorities on Tuesday arrested 41 people in raids against a controversial yoga sect, including its leader, the Romanian guru Gregorian Bivolaru, a source close to the case told AFP.

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The sect is accused of numerous abuses under Bivolaru, who has been repeatedly in the crosshairs of judicial authorities in Romania, Sweden and France in the last years, the source said.

The people were arrested in the Paris region and southern France and included other key members of the sect, the source added.

Some 175 police officers were deployed for the operation, during which 26 women - several of whom were held against their will - were freed, the source said.

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The network, called Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA), runs several yoga schools and related operations.

The source said the sect had "several hundred" members, but no precise figure was available.

The arrests follow a probe into the sect launched by Paris prosecutors in July, on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and people trafficking among others.

The investigation was sparked by France's Human Rights League, a human rights NGO, which contacted the prosecutors' office after receiving statements from 12 former MISA members, a judiciary source said.

MISA, which became known as Atman after its expansion beyond Romania, taught tantra yoga with the aim of "conditioning victims to accept sexual relations via mental manipulation techniques which sought to eliminate any notion of consent".

Women were encouraged to accept sexual relations with the group's leader, and "to agree to participate in fee-paying pornographic practices in France and abroad", the source said.

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