Friday, August 9, 2013

Romania's top court examines communist guard case

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Romania's top court will examine the case of a former commander of a communist prison who is accused of aggravated murder in the deaths of six political prisoners.

The High Court of Cassation and Justice said Friday it will take on the case because of its legal complexity and also because more than 50 years have lapsed since the deaths at the notorious Ramnicu Sarat communist prison. Under Romanian law, there is no time limit on prosecuting serious crimes.

From 1956 to 1963, Alexandru Visinescu ran Ramnicu Sarat where pre-communist political leaders and intellectual elite were incarcerated.

The institute investigating communist crimes last week called for Visinescu, 87, to be prosecuted for the deaths. It said prisoners died from beatings, hunger, a lack of medical treatment and exposure to cold. It will hand a total of 35 files of former commanders to prosecutors.

Romanians were shocked after Visinescu publicly cursed a cameraman and lunged at journalists several times who were seeking reaction to the accusations against him.

The plight of the former prison guards and their thousands of victims has turned into a national debate in Romania with many questioning why former prison guards have not only not faced trial even though communism ended 23 years ago, but also receive the highest pensions in Romania.

President Traian Basescu this weekend said it was never too late for justice and said Visinescu should be handed over to the justice system. Visinescu says he was only following orders and doing his job.

More than 500,000 Romanians were incarcerated for opposition to the communist regime and one-fifth died.

Romania threw off communism during the 1989 revolution, but former communists and former Securitate secret police agents continued to wield influence in politics, business and the media, effectively protecting figures like Visinescu.

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