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European Fact-Finders Cite 'Horrible Violence' Against Moldova Protesters

Opposition protestors in Chisinau on April 10, three days after the worst of the street violence

Opposition protestors in Chisinau on April 10, three days after the worst of the street violence

CHISINAU -- A fact-finding mission from the European Parliament has said in Chisinau that "acts of horrible violence" were committed by police against young people after postelection protests in the Moldovan capital in early April, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reported.

The delegates added that many detainees were brutally beaten and forced to walk through "corridors of death," two rows of police officers who beat them with their fists, feet, and truncheons.

Mission head Marianne Mikko, a lawmaker from Estonia and chairwoman of the EU-Moldova Committee in the European Parliament, said she has gotten the impression in recent years that Moldovan leaders "think Europe to be naive."

Mikko, a champion of Moldova's drive for closer ties to the EU, suggested that Brussels ought to impose tougher conditions on financial aid to Chisinau and on any efforts to bring Moldova closer to the EU.

Moldova is among six former Soviet republics recently invited to join the EU's Eastern Partnership, a program to strengthen EU ties to countries in the region.

Mixed Signals

The same day that the fact-finders were blaming officials for violent retribution against the protesters, the Council of Europe's secretary-general, Terry Davis, said separately that he thought it was a mistake to suggest that "in terms of democracy Moldova is going backwards."

Davis said that while the recent parliamentary elections were imperfect, they were an improvement over the previous elections in 2005.

Davis told RFE/RL's Moldovan Service that "there should have been more progress" but that the flaws in the April 5 vote do not justify applying sanctions against Chisinau.

He said it is incorrect "to say that in terms of democracy Moldova is going backwards" and he encouraged Chisinau to work to ensure that the opposition has full access to the media and that electoral lists are accurate before the next elections.

Moldovan opposition figures and independent media have criticized Western monitors -- including those of the OSCE and the Council of Europe -- for hurrying to validate elections that the opposition says was flawed.

Leaderless 'Coup'?

The worst of the street violence came on April 7, when government and parliamentary offices were ransacked two days after the parliamentary elections dominated by President Vladimir Voronin's Communist Party.

Video footage emerged soon after the unrest showing individuals beating or otherwise harassing protesters or young people seeking information about friends they believed had been detained around the government building in central Chisinau.

Questions remain as to the nature of the tense buildup that preceded the violence, with some suggesting it a modest attempt at protest spun out of control when large numbers of people heeded various calls -- including through Twitter and other Internet venues -- for protests.

But the Moldovan president and other officials said at the height of the tensions that the events represented a "coup d'etat" and even alleged official Romanian involvement in the disorder.

Experts have speculated that beleaguered Moldova's longtime leader Voronin might become more authoritarian in the wake of the violence, and even steer a course that takes Moldova closer to Russia in the event that the West tries to isolate Chisinau over the election aftermath.

Voronin on April 15 called for "a general amnesty" and "an end to all forms of prosecution against participants in street protests."

But only about a week later authorities announced they had charged at least 20 people in connection with the unrest and continued to hold alleged "Twitter organizer" and journalist Natalia Morar under house arrest with charges pending against her of inciting "mass disorder."

written by RFE/RL in Prague based on reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service