LA VERITA’ SU ARKEON - Sentenza (definitiva) “arkeon” di primo grado a Bari: nessuna “psicosetta”

Nelle Motivazioni della Sentenza, alle pagine 896 e 897 si legge:
“l’esito di questo giudizio ha sconfessato la sussistenza della principale e più grave delle accuse, costituita dall’essere Arkeon una “psico-setta”, ha portato ad escludere la sussistenza di uno stato di incapacità di intendere e volere per i partecipanti a qualsiasi tipo di seminario e di tecniche manipolatorie della mente, nonché di violenze di ogni genere poste in essere nei confronti di minori. In questo giudizio non vi è stata contestazione di reati fiscali ed è emerso che i costi dei seminari erano fissi e noti ai partecipanti. Il processo ha portato ad escludere la sussistenza dell’aggravante dell’aver indotto nei partecipanti il timore di un pericolo immaginario, come cagione giustificativa degli esborsi economici, nonché di quella del danno di rilevante entità e da questo è conseguita la ritenuta improcedibilità dei reati di truffa, con riferimento ai quali non era stata sporta alcuna querela da parte delle vittime…”

Registrazione audio integrale della Relazione di Raffaella Di Marzio: ORGANIZZAZIONI SETTARIE E ANTISETTARIE: STRUTTURE E DINAMICHE SIMILARI IN CONTESTI ANTAGONISTI - 12° Congresso Internazionale della Società Italiana di Psicologia della Religione (SIPR): "L'IO, L'ALTRO, DIO: Religiosità e Narcisismo" - Testo registrazione

Le Confessioni del "mostro nello specchio". Arkeon, Le Associazioni Anti-sette e l'Ordine degli Psicologi: Un'esperienza personale

The Confessions of "the monster in the mirror". Arkeon, the Anti-cult Associations and the Order of Psychologists: a personal experience

Movimenti Antisette e Neutralità dello Stato - Un caso di studio: la FECRIS

Nella sua conclusione Willy Fautrè mette in evidenza come associazioni membri della FECRIS, nelle nazioni prese in considerazione dalla ricerca, mettano in atto azioni discutibili

Sette, antisette, "setta degli antisette", aiuto e altre riflessioni - Simonetta Po

Persecuzione e campagne anti-sette: intervista a Raffaella Di Marzio - di Camillo Maffia

martedì 9 luglio 2013

The impact of the media on the members and families of the Arkeon association - ICSA Conference Trieste - July 5, 2013

ICSA 2013 Annual Conference
Manipulation, Abuse, and Maltreatment in Groups
Trieste, Italy  -  July 4-6, 2013

Human rights, the law, and new religion movements: finding a balance -
 How the social context can violate individuals’ human rights

“The impact of the media on the members and families of the Arkeon association”

Ladies and gentlemen,
Today I’m here to report on the mediatic-judicial case suffered  in Italy from a movement known as “Arkeon”. I will discuss some of the difficulties faced by individuals and families that, in different degrees, have participated in the seminars after accusations were made in January 2006, and then disseminated, that Arkeon was a “dangerous psycho-cult” with a destructive character. In particular I want to highlight the role of the media which - together with some anti-cult associations, the magistrates and the institutions - painfully characterized this very emblematic case.  
I will start from some concrete examples.
An Italian journalist and writer, Caterina Boschetti, in her April 2010 speech  in London, referred to “arkeon” in the following terms: 

“…Recently a major breakthrough occurred at the level of the Italian media: two important episodes which led public opinion to take interested in cults.  I refer to the arrest in Bari of the leader of the organization Arkeon, Vito Carlo Moccia. This group had thousands of followers in our country, (one estimate: 10.000 people). In 2006, for the first time, Italian television showed a program giving information, following testimony by the adepts who managed to free themselves, but it is only recently that Vito Carlo Moccia was arrested. The crimes committed are sadly known: criminal conspiracy, fraud, illicit exercise of medicine, violence against individuals, ill-treatment and abuse on minors, applying the art of undue influence for criminal ends. All for the money, much money…”.
“Evolution of the situation in Italy: from the black book of Italian cults to the project Nepenthes, a film about the cultist excesses to make people aware of the problem” - Caterina Boschetti, Journalist and author

The fact is that the founder of Arkeon was never arrested and, what’s more , in April 2010 the trial against “arkeon” had not yet begun and anyway it would have ended in July 2012 with an absolution from Bari’s Tribunal:

“…the outcome of this Judgement disconfirmed the existence of the main and most serious accusation, which is Arkeon being a “psycho cult”, it excluded the existence of a state of inability to understand and will for those attending any kind of seminar, of mental manipulation techniques and of any kind of violence acted against minor age persons. In this Judgement there is no allegation of fiscal Crimes and it was clear that the costs of the seminars were fixed and well known to attendants. The process excluded the existence of the aggravating conditions of having induced in the attendants the fear of an imagery danger as reason for monetary payments and that of a relevant damage. Hence it followed the lack of basis to' proceed for the Crimes of truffle, for which no quarrel has been presented by the victims…”
“Motivations of the judgement, pages 896 and 897”

What authorizes a sensitive person, a journalist, to feed the media with false and ungrounded information on a group, which could damage the lives of many harmless families? Who and what authorizes a person to exploit with false data a very delicate story which deals the life of thousands of families, with the aim to promote the reintroduction, in Italy, of a law against plagiarism?

The mediatic-judicial case about Arkeon started in January 2006, when three persons - who attended arkeon seminars in different ways - accused the behaviour of Arkeon association during three acts of a transmission on one national TV channel, accusing the founder and other arkeon teachers of many crime, like truffles, sexual abuses, violence on minors, suicide incitement and so on.
The president of an anti-cult association took part to such transmission, declaring she studied “the arkeon cult” and its risks for ten years and she collected many serious witnesses.

After these transmissions, a true escalation began of TV programmes, articles on newspapers, internet forums which still goes on, after more then seven years and despite a judgement of substantial absolution for Arkeon.

ARTICLE LIST before the opening of the trial

ARTICLE LIST after the opening of the trial

Immediately after the first transmissions on Arkeon, anonymous letters of threat began being received both by those organizing the seminars and the hotels hosting the seminars in many Italian cities. Letters describing the “dangerous and destructive arkeon cult” and the “devil Vito Moccia”, the founder of the movement.
During the  following months many “accidents” happened, as wheels cut to the cars of people attending seminars, or more and more heavy threats (pictures of skulls and skeletons included) directly received at home by masters or people attending their seminars.
Not to talk of what was starting on the internet. Dedicated forums where - among falsehoods covered by anonymity and true insults - rapidly it was required, in delirious crescendo, the  “excommunication from the Catholic Church for the arkeon families” or the intervention of social services to “remove the minors from arkeon families  to protect them”.
These things and many more contributed to create an enormous confusion in people and families.
By sure, what created a growing discomfort was the label “cult”.

As well pointed out by the researcher Raffaella Di Marzio in one interview of hers dated 2013:
“Arkeon was borne as a Reiki association which, around 2004, changed because the founder returned to his infancy catholic roots. He reconverted to Catholicism. The organization was changing its socio-cultural and anthropological features and was becoming something else. Indeed the name changed in “Arkeon” when they were investigated, before it had another name. During these changes, in these kind of  organizations strong disagreement arises and large part of the attendants of the Reiki seminars refused it.  Many problems arose, also because the founder came nearer to the Catholic and found some priests who welcomed him. From the point of view of these priest, these were persons passing from a distance from the Church (Reiki, the East, certain beliefs incompatible  with  the Catholic Church) to a slow coming back in the Catholicism.
During this deep change , Arkeon was becoming a anthropologic path to recollect the ancient roots of the family: the values of sonship, fathership, mothership. It has never been a religion, rather an anthropologic path with catholic connotations…”
Prosecution and anti-cult campaign: interview with Raffaella Di Marzio

Suffering harmless the ignominious label of “cult”, while vulnerable for this troubled change, created an enormous confusion in the persons attending or who attended the Arkeon seminars of two or four days. But even more, it caused suspicion and fear in the relatives (parents, spouses or sons), who had never directly known arkeon.  The word “cult” is certainly not reassuring for anybody, and in the common sense it indicates at least something unclear and criminal, if not even perverted.

For example, it is no surprise the behaviour of a roman family which, after seeing a widely followed transmission on a national TV channel  which dealt with the arkeon case in an impacting way, worried for their 20 years old son who had attended two arkeon seminars following the invitation of his girlfriend, then called an anti-cult association and, during 2007 summer, threatened their son to leave his girlfriend and arkeon for his own sake, with a gun in their hand pointed at him.
It should be noted that this serious and goodwilling young man, whom I had the pleasure to know, was not taking the distance from his family, on the contrary he only wanted - maybe also thanks to his path in arkeon - to receive his father’s blessing to settle up his own family with his girlfriend. What indeed he did, even if to do it he had to put a five hundred kilometers distance from his parents, in order to avoid other unpleasant misunderstandings or tragedies.
Arkeon e i "Cervelli Lavati" 19-3-2009

In fact, the peak of the story was reached only in October 2007, when the founder and other 5 arkeon masters received the notification of investigation from Bari’s Police. The following day all the italian newspapers and TV channels spoke about the “arkeon cult defeated”: truffles, sexual abuses, violences on minors, slanders, psycho-cult and adepts were the typical words used in the headlines of the scoops. A TV program was broadcasted in prime time on the case:  

Since then, the Arkeon seminars - which until then had continued despite many difficulties and undersized - definitely ended. The website was closed by the Police, just like the dedicated discussion forum and all the relative email accounts. The arkeon families found themselves suddenly isolated, harmless and exposed to any injury and falsehood. All of this, while the TV showed the images of the press conference of the Police of Bari which “defeated a dangerous and destructive psycho-cult: the greatest in Europa…”.
Those were days of true madness. Nobody understood what was happening. But it was clear that anything could happen.
After the first TV programmes of 2006, inside arkeon a strong debate opened on the accusations received. A wave of self-criticism strongly moved and many meetings were organized, open to all the arkeon attendants, to go deeper and collect witnesses of any potential misbehaviour or abuse suffered from people during the seminars. In the previous years, indeed, the internal “Ethical Committee” had banned some masters, but for reason far less serious than those witnessed on TV and basically related to a not full respect of the internal code of conduct concerning the arkeon teaching approach.
What’s more, to avoid any risk of “self-referentiality”, the board of Arkeon worked since the first months of 2006 to allow an objective study of the group, of its modes and of any criticalities, led by professional people completely unrelated with the group.
To this aim, the founder Vito Moccia called the GRIS (Group for Socio-Religious Research and Information), which kindly refused the invitation.
Finally, this neutral study was performed between the end of 2006 and the first months of 2007 by the authoritative CISF (International Centre For Studies on the Family).

Notwithstanding, after the accusations from the Prosecutor Office - which basically recalled those raised on TV - an abyss opened in front of the arkeon families.
Suddenly anonymous threatening phone calls began, directly against persons around arkeon, but also at work, in the schools and kindergartens of the sons.
The parents of the schoolmates of our sons, frightened by the apocalyptic tones of TV programmes and newspapers headlines, started avoiding any contact and sometimes stopped hailing us. In some schools, due to anonymous phone calls but also to the fears of the other parents, the school managers strongly asked the arkeon parents to bring their sons elsewhere.
In conclusion, delirium and hysteria exploded.
Sometimes, the children were jeered and heavily insulted by their school mates who probably had heard  their parents’ discussions on arkeon.

The same happened at work, where - due to anonymous reports or mediatic exposure - many persons who had attended the seminars were interviewed by their managers and sometimes fired.

This mediatic pillory applied also in the churches. One priest explicitly invited a catholic family of arkeon not to take part anymore in the Sunday’s Mass in his church and to change parish because they “embarrassed the whole community”.

Exactly in that period I changed house together with my wife and children. After a painful reflection, still unable to believe to what was happening and conscious I exposed my name in the web on a blog dedicated to the arkeon case, I decided to inform preliminarily the counterparts of my new village. So, with enormous pain and embarrassment, I went to the School manager, the Major, the head of Local Police and the Parish to explain them - in the less confuse way possible - what me and my family were living and the chance for anonymous letters against us. I did it with the death in my heart, conscious that - in case the news had to spread - surely me and my family would have had no future in that place. Thanks God I found in all those persons a great opening and understanding.

If possible, the situation for the families worsened further on when, on 26 march 2008, also the scholar Raffaella Di Marzio was inquired for the same crimes attributed to the arkeon masters and her website was closed by the Police of Bari.
The confessions of "the monster in the mirror". Arkeon, the anti-cult associations and the  Order of Psychologists: a personal  experience.

I had contacted Mrs. Di Marzio in November 2007, after the intervention of the Prosecutor Office of Bari against Arkeon.
I had read some of her scientific publication on the matter and hoped to find in her an open minded counterpart, ready to explain to me and to the confused arkeon families what was happening and also to listen to them. My wish was not frustrated. In February 2008, during a first meeting, she met several arkeon families and then she published on her blog an article on it.
“To be or not to be a cult : THAT is the question - When the information becomes a dogma, the committees become courts, the experts become “guru” and people remain, anyway, victim”.

The families, from their own, founding an authoritative and respectful counterpart, opened themselves and started sharing directly to Doc. Di Marzio their fears for all the story.
So when the same Raffaella Di Marzio was inquired after one month by the Police and her website was closed, the world collapsed for many persons.
The picture worsened also due to a new wave on the media, which attacked further on, exciting the arkeon critics who raged on the web with no constraint, setting on fire the opening of the trial.
The outcome of all such pressure was the disaster in many arkeon families, as many persons nearly frightened by this manhunt had no more references.
Together with other associates, in order to avoid further prosecutions, with infinite pain I choose to support the closing of the Arkeon association.
Many families breaked up, in others so strong was the pain for the lies heard and the isolation suffered that someone considered suicide. Someone among those inquired indeed tried it.

After some months, in October 2008, desperate and conscious of the risk I ran, I tried to dialogue with European FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects), which, through its President Mr. Griess, turned me to its Italian affiliates. These ones, despite my many preaches, didn’t want to open any dialogue, no way.
“Communication to FECRIS 7th October 2008”

This state of impotence continued until spring 2011. Meanwhile the tabloid articles attacked anyone who simply dared appearing on the scene of the arkeon case, even when only to raise some question. Everything was grinded through the media and the discussion forums on the web.

In spring 2011, as the arkeon trial was approaching,  some facts changed the scene.
On 8 march 2011 the Magistrate of Bari archived the case against Di Marzio because “the crime news was inconsistent” and soon after her website was again available.

At the same time, few weeks before, a former arkeon master - who had become one of its main accusers - had committed suicide. Some newspapers tried someway to grant arkeon the responsibility for that, but - as it become later on clear from the witnesses in the trail - this was more probably related to a fallback in drug addiction and the consequent painful divorce.

The mood around the trial worsened even more after the Prosecutor in Bari decided to open up a parallel case accusing of slander 47 arkeon members, many of whom were in the list of the defence witnesses for the founder Vito Moccia. That implied making void their witness, as they were accused too. This “dance of the procedures” costed a lot of money to many innocent families, but also gave an unpleasant sensation.
Anyway, the case for slander against the 47s had been then archived, after the end of the main trial.  But it should not be forget that the newspapers in March 2010 at the beginning of all the story headlined:  “… 47 inquired. Under accusation the adepts of Arkeon - The psycho-satanic cult promised to solve psychic problems and serious diseases through its seminars”.  Nor it should be forgotten that this case kept suspended for three years the life of 47 persons, whose only wrong was their wish to bring their witness in a highly delicate trial.

The absolution sentence of arkeon, as for the psycho-cult issue and the related crimes, was pronounced by the Court on 16 July 2012.
It has not been appealed against by the accusation, so it can be considered final. Instead the crime for abuse of the profession of psychologist and the relative crime association has been appealed by the defense and it will be treated in a second trial.

The sentence spoke clearly: “…the outcome of this Judgement disconfirmed the existence of the main and most serious accusation, which is Arkeon being a “psycho cult”, it excluded the existence of a state of inability to understand and will for those attending any kind of seminar, of mental manipulation techniques and of any kind of violence acted against minor age persons. In this Judgement there is no allegation of fiscal Crimes and it was clear that the costs of the seminars were fixed and well known to attendants. The process excluded the existence of the aggravating conditions of having induced in the attendants the fear of an imagery danger as reason for monetary payments and that of a relevant damage. Hence it followed the lack of basis to' proceed for the Crimes of truffle, for which no quarrel has been presented by the victims…”
“Motivations of the judgement, pages 896 and 897”

Notwithstanding, the lawyer of those accusing Arkeon issued a curious press release so ending: “…No absolution, then, for Moccia and his associates (apart from slander), but confirmation that the serious facts denounced were true and proven!”    Avv. Marco Marzari

Even more alarming is that on 18 June 2012, which is five months after the absolution sentence, two Senators of the Italian Republic signed a document named “Atto di Sindacato Ispettivo n° 4-08890” where, among other things, they gave it for granted that in the arkeon trial the crime of mistreating of minor had been proven.  Which is false and so more serious given the institutional level where it was said.
But years of prejudice and falsehoods spread on the media cannot be cancelled easily.

Personally I’m grateful to this hard experience and the long pain of these years. I spent and exhausted myself also mentally, and I well understand I would need also some pharmacologic support. I worked for too many years in psychiatric hospitals not to realize it. The condition my Psychiatrist required me is to get out of this story and put it definitely away. I kindly answered I cannot; but even more I don’t want to.

I’m ill-treated with denounces, nearly all for slander, by some Italian anti-cult groups, because I didn’t keep silent about the wrongs and bullying I witnessed.
On my side there is not some psychopathic leader or people belonging to some strange group. In my same condition there are many scholars and professionals, here present and who organized this Meeting in Trieste. And this honors me.

I want to conclude my speech with a prosy but hard note.

Demonizing someone or something is not so difficult.
Using the word “cult” to do it is the simplest way.
What today, with all respects, I want to make well clear to all of us here present is that every time we use the word “cult” or we “whisper” it to some journalist so he writes it about a group or a story, we are taking the explicit responsibility to label with fire and forever all the members of that group. Everybody, good and bad, guilty and innocents, adults and children. And this label, like it or not, is forever.
The true reason I’m here today is to remind me and you, Ladies and Gentlemen, only this.
Thank you by heart for your attention.
Good job to you all.

Pietro Bono

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