Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Former Romanian general convicted of trying to suppress anti-communist revolt dies

By: Alison Mutler, The Associated Press
Posted: 1/11/2010

BUCHAREST, Romania - Former Romanian army general Mihai Chitac, convicted of trying to suppress the 1989 anti-communist revolution in a western city where dozens were killed, has died. He was 81.

Chitac's family said he died at home Monday, according to Mediafax news agency. A cause of death wasn't announced, but he had a long history of health problems.

After a trial that lasted for years, Chitac was sentenced to 15 years in prison in October 2008, together with ex-army general Victor Stanculescu for trying to quell the anti-communist revolt in the western city of Timisoara. Chitac was released from jail several times because of poor health.

More than 70 people died and 250 were wounded in shooting in the city during the revolt.

Chitac personally picked up a gun to shoot unarmed demonstrators in Timisoara, the first city in Romania to protest against Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship, with the words "We'll show them what a revolution is!" according to judges in his case.

Chitac was one of only a handful of people to be convicted in connection with the revolt, in which more than 1,000 people were killed. He claimed his arrest and conviction were politically orchestrated by the centrist government that came to power in 2004.

Under the previous leftist government, he managed to avoid conviction leading to claims that he had benefited from his political allegiances to that government.

After communism ended, former communists came to power, including President Ion Iliescu, and there was no inquiry into civilian deaths during the revolt. Chitac and Stanculescu took office in the first post-communist government. Chitac was interior minister for a few months in 1990 and Stanculescu was industry minister and later defence minister.

Chitac will be buried without military honours at the Ghencea Military Cemetery on Wednesday.

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