Romania seeks to prosecute ex-president over revolution bloodshed

Anti-communist demonstrations in Bucharest in December 1989 at the start of an uprising that would overthrow dictator Nicolae Ceausescu
AFP

Bucharest (AFP) – Romanian prosecutors on Monday requested to prosecute former president Ion Iliescu and ex-prime minister Petre Roman for “crimes against humanity” during the deadly aftermath of the country’s 1989 revolution.

Attorney general Augustin Lazar asked President Klaus Iohannis to give the green light to open criminal proceedings against the former leaders, according to a statement by the public prosecutor. 

Former deputy prime minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu will also be targeted.

The announcement opens a new stage in long-running investigations into those responsible during the bloody days before and after the death of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena.

In all, 1,104 people died during the events of December 1989 in Romania, including 162 before the fall of Ceausescu, who ordered a clampdown on protests, and 942 in the days following, according to historical accounts which, 28 years later, remain unclear.

Prosecutors have said they are probing the responsibility of “the new political and military leadership” which took over after Ceausescu fled.

The National Salvation Front headed by Iliescu, a former Ceausescu minister, led Romania in the first weeks after the revolution. 

The group’s members Roman and Voiculescu became prime minister and deputy prime minister during this period.

Iliescu, now 88, was president from 1989 to 1996, and served another term from 2000 to 2004. 

Prosecutors have said that “in order to maintain power” the new leaders implemented a “plan” and provoked murder and injuries by gunfire, “as well as the detention of a large number of people”.

Roman responded strongly to the news after the announcement on Monday.

“It’s a feeling of revulsion and total shock because I have absolutely nothing to do with this story,” he told news agency Agerpres.

The investigation into the events was shelved in 2015, notably due to lack of evidence, but was reopened in June 2016 by the country’s highest court.

According to prosecutors, 275 people have already faced legal action over their role in putting down the uprising, of whom only a few dozen have been convicted, according to victims’ support groups.

Ceausescu’s demise came at the end of a momentous year in which communist regimes fell across central and eastern Europe — with the Berlin Wall coming down in November — presaging the demise of the Soviet Union by the end of 1991.

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