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Tantric yoga sect guru goes before French judge

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Tantric yoga sect guru goes before French judge
Gregorian Bivolaru (L), the spiritual leader of MISA sect, being taken from a court in Bucharest in 2004. Photo: STRINGER/AFP.

The leader of a controversial tantric yoga sect went before a French judge on Friday, sources close to the case said, after he and others were arrested in a probe into alleged kidnapping, rape and people trafficking.

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Gregorian Bivolaru, a 71-year-old national of both Romania and Sweden, and 14 other people were to be questioned with a view to being potentially charged in the case, a judicial source told AFP late on Thursday.

French authorities on Tuesday arrested 41 people, including Bivolaru, and freed 26 women in raids against the sect after a probe into alleged sexual abuse.

The others arrested have been released without facing any further legal proceedings at this stage.

Bivolaru in custody denied allegations against him, but said he had been "endowed with extraordinary gifts" and was a "spiritual leader", a police source said.

After passing the stage of "consecration", women "loved him" at his home, the source recounted him as saying.

Bivolaru claimed he was the "victim of a political plot", the source added. Contacted by AFP, the guru's lawyer did not wish to comment.

'Mental manipulation'

Bivolaru founded a network called the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA), which runs several yoga schools.

MISA, which became known as ATMAN after its expansion beyond Romania, taught tantric yoga with the aim of "conditioning victims to accept sexual relations via mental manipulation techniques which sought to eliminate any notion of consent", the judicial source said earlier this week.

Several women, of different nationalities, said they had been victims of the MISA organisation and its leader, the source added.

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 sect is thought to have several hundred followers in France.

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

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A human rights group collected statements from 12 former MISA members, triggering a French governmental body in 2022 to call for an investigation, the source said.

To escape legal proceedings in Romania, Bivolaru fled to Sweden, where he obtained political asylum in 2006, changing his name to Magnus Aurolsson. He disappeared for several years after a Romanian court condemned him in absentia to six years in prison in 2013.

France arrested him in early 2016 and handed him over to Romania but he again vanished before French police detained him earlier this week.

MISA, in a statement in Romanian, on Thursday described the accusations against Bivolaru as "absurd". It said the guru had been "the target since the 1990s of media campaigns seeking to discredit him".

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