By Mihaela Rodina (AFP)
BUCHAREST — Romanian activists on Monday called for honouring the victims of the country's December 1989 anti-communist revolt, as re-elected President Traian Basescu was sworn into office, paying homage to their "sacrifice".
"We are calling on all Bucharesters to honour the heroes who gave their lives for our freedom," said a statement from the association December 21, representing those who helped bring down communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
"Twenty years ago, Romanians vanquished the all-invasive fear and rose up against the communist regime," the statement said.
On December 21 and 22, 1989, some 48 people were shot dead in downtown Bucharest when Romania's army and the secret police, the Securitate, opened fire on peaceful protesters. Several thousand more were injured, arrested and tortured.
Previously, protests had erupted in Timisoara, the western Romanian city that has become a symbol of the revolution. There too, the crackdown took its toll, with about a 100 dead and several hundred injured.
A total of 1,104 Romanians were killed during the events: 162 before Ceausescu fled from power on December 22, and another 942 after that date.
On Monday, about 300 mostly young people marched in the centre of Bucharest, in memory of the victims of the revolt.
They chanted "freedom, freedom", "glory to the heroes". Some of them who gathered on University square, one of the hotspots of the revolution, were carrying banners with the names of those who were killed on December 21, 1989.
"Twenty years on, we feel the authorities have done their best to cover up the truth about those events," Teodor Maries, leader of the December 21 association, told AFP.
"What we have been asking for is that those who ordered the crackdown be tried, we have never said we want them dead," he added.
Apart from Ceausescu and his wife Elena, tried and executed in December 1989, few of the former communist leaders have been sentenced to prison.
Maries said many Romanians were disappointed by how things had turned out after the revolt.
"Back in December 1989, we had lofty ideals, we fought for freedom and democracy and hoped for a society free from corruption, where the judiciary may do its duty," he said.
Taking his oath for a second five-year term in office, Basescu paid homage to roughly "a thousand Romanians who gave their lives for freedom" in December 1989.
"Their sacrifice is the cornerstone of today's democratic institutions," he said, regretting that "Romanian society has the impression that all the truth has not been said and the culprits have not been punished."
Maries called on the president to build on his 2006 parliamentary speech, when he formally condemned the crimes of the communist regime.
A law banning former members of the communist nomenklatura from holding high official positions "would be most welcome," he said.
He also hoped the "criminals of December 1989" may finally go on trial.
"Otherwise, the condemnation of communism will only remain a symbolic gesture," he said.