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Reactions and protests >>> Other reactions >>> Internationalizing the Bivolaru Case


- Thursday, April 7 2005

The news that Gregorian Bivolaru had been taken in custody by the Swedish Police reached us on Tuesday. Bivolaru, spiritual leader of MISA, had been caught by the Interpol and retained by the Malmö Police while he was visiting the Immigration Office. Bivolaru had lodged an application for political asylum, which was under review. The Interpol intervention will probably accelerate the review procedure. A legal battle is being waged in Sweden these days between the penal file compiled by the prosecution in Bucharest and the file of the defense counsel, that was actually also put together back in Romania. In case the Swedish authorities give more credence to the latter, Bivolaru is set to become a political refugee. Such a decision will definitely influence the related cases of other people that are still before the Romanian courts. Remember that, although Bivolaru is a key-figure, he is merely one of the hundreds of people investigated as part of the MISA file. On March 18, 2004, about 300 policemen and Intelligence Service people organized a brutal search of about 20 dwellings; they broke doors and windows, they hit the people living there, forced them to lie on the floor face down and threatened to shoot them.

Quite inexplicably, the action was filmed systematically, and the images were delivered to all the media without delay. Most comments incriminated the subjects of the searches and instigated the public against them. The cameras voluptuously focused on the people whose homes were being searched, who were shown in humiliating positions. As the grounds for organizing the searches, reporters mentioned all sorts of alleged crimes, such as drug trafficking, illegal possession of guns, prostitution and organized crime. In a report on the events, somebody formulated the following question: "How could the media present these crimes as the grounds for conducting the searches, when actually the warrants mentioned ambiguous elements such as "identifying computer data, user data, data on international trafficking"?"

At the time, only APADOR-CH, a non-governmental organization, and two or three journalists – the names of Rodica Culcer and Ion Zubascu come to mind – formulated a protest against what had happened. But then minority opinions are not necessarily always considered to be true. Yet, one wonders, what was it that made them doubt the views that were spontaneously accepted and supported by all the media, the relevant authorities and the public, in one voice?

I would like to be able to convey to my readers the shock you get when you are investigating such a case. The closer you get to the actual events, the more inconsistent the accusations get. I had the opportunity to read several official statements issued by various organizations stating that the members of the yoga classes organized by MISA had been under surveillance for over a decade. Therefore, individual warrants for telephone interception had been issued for hundreds of people, with full names, terms and legal grounds. But then why was the preliminary investigation, that authorized a search to be conducted on March 18, 2004 on grounds such as trafficking in human beings, tax avoidance and money laundering, done in rem? In legal jargon, this means that the deeds were known, but the perpetrators were not. Could it be that a decade of sophisticated surveillance had proved insufficient for identifying the "culprits"? To this day, it has been impossible to demonstrate that any criminal act has been perpetrated that could legally justify the decision of the relevant authorities to set up surveillance of the private lives of so many people. Interception and surveillance warrants are granted for limited intervals, and only in a number of cases, clearly defined by the law. Anyway, they do not include crimes related to sex life, which the investigators eventually invoked for arresting Gregorian Bivolaru.

Soon after these brutal events, the victims lodged penal complaints. Now that a year has passed, at least some preliminary results should have emerged, whether positive or negative. The judiciary does have to comply with some procedural deadlines. Yet, none of the 55 prosecutors against whom complaints had been lodged, none of the victims or of the "aggressors" have been summoned to court for a hearing to this day. You only need some basic common sense to realize there is something wrong about the way in which the judiciary is treating the events on March 18, 2004.

But getting into touch with the victims of these events is maybe even more impressive for anyone trying to unravel the tangles of the MISA case than simply reading about it. Meeting the subjects of the repression, who find themselves demonized by the public, when actually they should receive help, is decisive. Let me quote just one of the numerous witnesses, who is one of the most severely affected victims. Madalina Dumitru, who was still under age in March 2004, gave me an interview in 2005. This is what she told me:

"We had just woken up, and I was still in my night clothes. Suddenly there was this loud banging on the door. I couldn't understand what was happening. I was so frightened, I thought I was still dreaming a really bad dream. At some point I thought I was going to die, I was desperate. When I saw them ramming the door in, I thought they were burglars. Mirona, Mirona, they are going to kill us, I cried. Our first thought was to hide in a wardrobe. Then we thought we would be better off jumping out of the window (but we were on the 1st floor). My pulse was throbbing in my ears, my heart was thumping. But we didn't have time for any of these. They rushed into the room and yelled: "Down, to the floor! Face down!" One of them came to me and kicked me in the breast. To the floor! Face down! I hadn't done anything, so I was just looking around, frightened to death.

They said they had a search warrant, and we should not resist, otherwise it would be very bad for us. They started searching the ground floor, then they went on upstairs. They kept us lying on the floor for half an hour. They would sometimes tell us to shut up, or else they would shoot. They are going to kill us, I told Mirona.

Two guys came, and told me to get dressed and go with them. There was this woman prosecutor who told me to do so, and not try to resist, otherwise things could get really ugly for me. I could no longer find my way around the place, I couldn't find my bag to give them my ID. Anyway, they kept asking: "Where's that minor?; where's that minor?"."

The "minor" was traumatized for ever. A world where such events can happen, and those who acted with such brutality can be protected by immunity, is undeniably a cruel world. This is why I find that the internationalization of the Bivolaru case is essentially a positive development. We really seem to need others to hold up a mirror for us, so that we can finally take a really good look at ourselves.


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