News of Events at Ananda Assisi, Italy
November 22, 2008
Swami Kriyananda completely exonerated —
Italian government dismisses 7-year investigation of Ananda as baseless
(PERUGIA, ITALY) On November 22, an Italian judge exonerated Swami Kriyananda and Ananda Assisi of all charges after a seven-year investigation by the government. The investigation was begun when a former member made accusations of criminal activity for the purposes of enslavement, brainwashing, coercion and tax fraud.
In a sweeping declaration of Swami Kriyananda and Ananda’s innocence, Judge Ricciarelli declared that there were no facts to support the accusations, and ordered that all charges be completely expurgated from the legal records.
Ananda’s defense attorneys, Giuseppe Caforio and Alessandro Di Baia said: (translated from Italian) “This is a great satisfaction for all, with hearty appreciation to Judge Ricciarelli for his careful examination of this case in seeing the truth of the situation – the complete absence of proof to sustain the hypothetical crimes attributed to Ananda and its followers.”
“We are very happy and grateful that the judicial system has recognized the honesty and legitimacy of Ananda’s work,” comments Kirtani Stickney, spiritual director of the community. “Thanks to our lawyers and to the many people who have believed in us and supported us in these years. This victory motivates and inspires us to continue our service to all those who are seeking inner peace.”
Swami Kriyananda, Ananda’s 82-year-old founder, who had testified before the judge on Thursday, received the positive news as he was arriving in India to speak at a conference.
Under Italian law, a judgment may now be made against the accuser, who was found to have falsified documents and presented false testimony.
Ananda stands to be awarded damages from the Italian government for the unwarranted harm to its reputation, for the false arrests, and state seizures of property.
“Like many religious groups, Ananda has faced lawsuits by disaffected members, but fortunately only two cases in 40 years,” said Asha Praver, minister at Ananda in Palo Alto, one of eight Ananda centers worldwide.
A previous case was filed in 1996 against Ananda in the U.S., and was similar to the Italian case in its claims. However rules of evidence and other tactics by the plaintiff severely restricted Ananda’s defense testimony and cross-examination of plaintiff witnesses, and the case was narrowly decided against Ananda.
“Legal experts advised us that the verdict would be overturned on appeal,” said Praver. “However, legal costs forced us into bankruptcy and we were unable to continue our defense. It has been a great sorrow to us. But the exoneration of Swami Kriyananda and Ananda in Italy is a joy and a vindication.”
Ananda in the U.S. emerged from bankruptcy in 1999 and was able to continue its service to the public throughout that time.
What is Ananda?
Ananda is a church and spiritual community with eight branches worldwide. It offers year-round retreat classes and worship services to the public, inspired by the meditation tradition of the East and the ancient mystic teachings of Christianity. Spiritual practices include meditation, prayer, and service to others. Ananda is one of the largest centers in the world for the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Ananda’s founder, Swami Kriyananda, has been a direct disciple of Yogananda since 1948. Ananda welcomes visitors.
For information about Ananda centers and communities in the United States:
Ananda in Europe
Ananda in India