Gregorian Bivolaru, guru of an international yoga movement suspected of rape and human trafficking, indicted

The guru of an international yoga movement, Gregorian Bivolaru, was indicted Friday evening for rape, abuse of weakness, kidnapping and human trafficking in an organized gang, Agence France-Presse (AFP) learned from judicial source

Gregorian Bivolaru, guru of an international yoga movement suspected of rape and human trafficking, indicted

The guru of an international yoga movement, Gregorian Bivolaru, was indicted Friday evening for rape, abuse of weakness, kidnapping and human trafficking in an organized gang, Agence France-Presse (AFP) learned from judicial source.

During a hearing at the Paris court, a liberty and detention judge decided to place him in pre-trial detention. “I am sorry about this decision,” his lawyer Anis Harabi reacted to AFP. “We will work on the file and establish his innocence,” he assured. Fourteen other people were heard by the courts on Friday.

Gregorian Bivolaru, well known in Romania and who founded the first yoga school in the then communist country in 1970, is the founding figure of the Movement for Spiritual Integration towards the Absolute (Misa). This ancient group, renamed Atman during its expansion outside Romania, presents itself as focused on the practice of tantric yoga.

Investigators from the Central Office for the Repression of Violence against Persons (OCRVP) rather suspect Misa of hiding a sect which practices sexual violence on a large scale.

“Victim of a political conspiracy”

Arrested on Tuesday, Gregorian Bivolaru denied, while in police custody, his role as leader but claimed to be "endowed with extraordinary gifts" and the "victim of a political conspiracy", reported a police source cited by the AFP. Suspected of rape, he instead presented himself as "a spiritual master": after a so-called "consecration" stage, women "loved" him at his home, according to the police source who reported his remarks.

This involves “conditioning victims to accept sexual relations via mental manipulation techniques aimed at removing any notion of consent,” a judicial source analyzed on Tuesday. The movement would also have encouraged women to “engage in paid pornographic practices in France and abroad,” added a source close to the investigation.

As early as 2008, Misa had been excluded “from the International Yoga Federation and the European Yoga Alliance for its commercial practices deemed illicit,” the judicial source also recalled. For its part, Misa published a press release on Thursday in Romanian to denounce “absurd accusations” against Gregorian Bivolaru, “target of media discredit campaigns since the 1990s”. “In the end, we are convinced that the truth will triumph,” the movement says.