Tantric yoga sect guru to appear before France judge

Tantric yoga sect guru to appear before France judge

Several woman allege abuse by Bivolaru, here seen outside a Romanian court in 2004.
Several woman allege abuse by Bivolaru, here seen outside a Romanian court in 2004.

PARIS: The leader of a controversial tantric yoga sect was to go before a French judge on Friday, a judicial source said, after he was arrested in a probe along with over a dozen others on suspicion of kidnapping, rape and people trafficking.

Gregorian Bivolaru, a 71-year-old national of both Romania and Sweden, and 14 other people were to be questioned.

The source told AFP late on Thursday that 15 people in total were to be referred to the investigating magistrate with a view to being potentially charged in the case.

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 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 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.

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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