By Chris King •
Updated: 28 Nov 2023 • 20:12
Image of a woman practicing yoga.
Credit: Look Studio/Shutterstock.com
A total of 41 people were arrested by the authorities during police raids conducted in France this Tuesday, November 28.
According to judicial sources close to the investigation, the detainees were suspected of being linked to an international sect accused of numerous abuses under the cover of the practice of yoga, reported lepoint.fr.
Among those arrested was 71-year-old Gregorian Bivolaru, the Romanian spiritual guru and founder of this controversial international yoga movement, the source revealed. Other alleged ‘important leaders’ of the sect were also arrested, the source continued.
Today’s arrests took place in the Paris region and in the Alpes-Maritimes, according to the source. Some 175 police officers were deployed in a large-scale operation, coordinated by the OCRVP (Central Office for the Repression of Violence against Persons). During the arrests, 26 women, several of whom were under influence, were released, they said.
Known as the Movement for Spiritual Integration towards the Absolute (Misa), the sect has many yoga schools and other branches across France, the source detailed to the news outlet.
‘It is difficult to quantify the number of followers’, they said, but suggested that it totalled: ‘several hundred people’.
A judicial investigation was opened by the Paris prosecutor’s office in July 2023, for abuse of weakness, kidnapping by an organised gang, rape and human trafficking.
At the end of July 2022, Miviludes (Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses) sent a report to the public prosecutor after being informed by the Human Rights League (LDH) of 12 reports from former members of the Misa movement, a judicial source told the aforementioned publication.
The Misa movement was allegedly renamed Atman during its expansion outside Romania. It leaders allegedly taught tantra yoga, with the aim of: ‘conditioning victims to accept sexual relations via mental manipulation techniques aimed at removing any notion of consent’.
Female victims were allegedly encouraged to: ‘accept sexual relations with the leader of the group, or to ‘engage in pornographic practices paid for in France and abroad’, said the French newspaper.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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