Authorities on Tuesday confirmed the existence of a mass grave containing prisoners' remains near the site of a former communist labor camp in eastern Romania. The discovery bolsters the case of investigators seeking genocide charges against the former commander of the penal colony.
A statement from the government's Institute for Investigating the Crimes of Communism laid out the official findings. It said five skeletons were found — one's right foot was missing, one had a dislocated spine and another's legs were tied together.
Institute chief Andrei Muraru said the discovery revealed "brutality and primitivism in the management of the colony."
The excavation, initiated by the institute, took place from Sept. 14 to Sept. 19 in a remote part of the Danube Delta near the former labor camp. Archeologists helped authorities piece together the evidence.
The institute wants prosecutors to charge the former Periprava camp commander, Ion Ficior, with genocide for the deaths of 103 political prisoners. Although the five skeletons were believed to be those of prisoners at the camp, it was not immediately clear if they belonged to any of the 103.
Muraru said Periprava camp inmates died from malnutrition, beatings, a lack of medicine and from drinking dirty water from the Danube, which caused dysentery. Ficior, now 85, was deputy commander and then commander of the camp from 1958 to 1963. He denies wrongdoing.
The institute plans to hand over evidence against 35 former guards who ran a range of prisons for political detainees in the 1950s and 1960s. About 3,500 former Romanian political prisoners from that era are still alive, down from 40,000 who were alive when communism was overthrown in 1989.