Friday, June 19, 2009

Romania drops charge against ex-president Iliescu

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, June 18 (Reuters) - Romania has dropped genocide charges against former president Ion Iliescu over the 1990 storming of Bucharest by miners during the country's transition from communism, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The general prosecutor's office said Moscow-educated Iliescu, 79, was also cleared of charges of war propaganda, inhuman treatment and accomplice to torture in connection with the clashes.

In June 1990, a month after the first democratic elections after the downfall of Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Iliescu summoned 20,000 coalminers to save his ruling National Salvation Front from what he called a "fascist coup attempt".

Prosecutors have been investigating allegations by associations of the victims of the violence that around 100 people were killed and were buried covertly and without documents by authorities in a Bucharest cemetery.

Simona Frolu, a prosecuting office spokeswoman, said Iliescu had no outstanding charges in connection with the clashes.

"There is no hint to lead to a certainty that Ion Iliescu endorsed killing of a group (of people), nor any data to show that he had aimed to do that," prosecutors said in a statement.

Earlier this year, prosecutors dropped other criminal investigations against Iliescu on charges including undermining state authority.

Last year, prosecutors dropped murder charges against him, saying there was no evidence he had a role in the killing of four people, officially declared as victims of the riots.

Iliescu has repeatedly denied accusations he engineered the violence, which commentators said hampered Romania's transition to a market economy and deterred foreign investment for years.


He is still under investigation for his role during the 1989 anti-communist revolution when hundreds of people were shot by troops after Ceausescu fled the capital.

Iliescu enjoyed widespread popularity after the revolt when Ceausescu was deposed and executed. But his opponents accuse him of stealing the revolution from the people.

Statistics show 1,200 people were killed and thousands wounded during the events after crowds poured into the streets to denounce the Ceausescu regime.

As candidate of the NSF, Iliescu won 85 per cent of the ballot in May 1990, an overwhelming vote of confidence in a man who had stepped into the spotlight only five months earlier in the confusion of the December 1989 revolt.

Confirmed as interim president by a temporary parliament in February 1990, Iliescu ran the country with an easy authority and a marked brusqueness with opponents.

He resigned as NSF leader after winning the 1990 election to conform with a rule that the president must be non-partisan.

The son of a railwayman, Iliescu crushed ultranationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor in presidential elections and his party won parliamentary polls in 2000.

His critics at home and abroad accuse Iliescu, who stepped down in 2004, and other leading politicians of trying to block reform and protect the political heritage and ruling elite of the Communist system.

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