Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Romania court upholds sentences against 2 generals

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romania's Supreme Court upheld 15-year prison sentences against two retired army generals convicted for their role in killing demonstrators while trying to suppress the 1989 anti-communist revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

The court's ruling Wednesday, the second in the case in almost a decade, is final. In 1999, Victor Stanculescu and Mihai Chitac were convicted for the first time of trying to quell the anti-communist revolt in the western city of Timisoara.

But in 2001, the country's prosecutor general ordered retrials for the two men in what was seen as a politically motivated move. In 2007, they were again convicted of murder and attempted murder but appealed the ruling.

Both generals held senior positions in Ceausescu's regime and they were dispatched to crack down on demonstrators in Timisoara. It was the first city in Romania to protest against Ceausescu's dictatorship, and 72 people died and 253 were wounded in chaotic shooting.

After the revolution, Stanculescu and Chitac took office in the first post-communist government. Chitac became interior minister in 1990 and Stanculescu was industry minister and later defense minister.

Chitac criticized Wednesday's ruling, calling it "political." Stanculescu, who was not at the court for the ruling, said he was waiting to be arrested.

The two retired generals, along with the Defense Ministry, were ordered to pay civil damages worth more than $1.37 million (Euro 1 million) to about 220 families of victims killed or wounded in Timisoara.

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