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Ion Ficior, the former head of Romania's Periprava labor camp during the communist era. (file photo)

A Romanian court has upheld a 20-year prison sentence against the former head of a Communist-era Romanian prison for his role in the deaths of 103 political prisoners.

Romania's High Court of Cassation and Justice on March 29 rejected the appeal of Ion Ficior, 88, who claimed he was not responsible for the deaths because he was following orders.

After the court's ruling, Ficior was taken into custody by police.

Ficior commanded the Periprava labor camp between 1958 and 1963. During his trial, former inmates testified to the appalling conditions at the prison, including beatings, deprivation of food and medicine, rigorous work regimes, and unheated cells.

"Too many people died there and it was considered normal," former prisoner Ion Radu, who served 12 years at the prison for belonging to an anticommunist organization, told Romanian media. "He totally deserves this punishment. He was left alone for too long. He was a cruel man."

In 2016, Romania sentenced another former prison head, Alexandru Visinescu, to 20 years for his role in the deaths of prisoners at the Ramnicu Sarat prison between 1956 and 1963.

Based on reporting by Digi24, AP, dpa, and AFP
Tajik detainee Jovidon Hakimov (file photo)

A Tajik court is reviewing a complaint from a man who claims that his confession saying he tried to recruit fighters for the extremist group Islamic State (IS) was obtained under duress.

Jovidon Hakimov, 29, claims he was severely beaten by police officers who interrogated him after his arrest in January, his lawyers said on March 29.

"Hakimov told the court on March 28 that the officers beat him...and broke his nose during the interrogations in the basement of the police station," attorney Muhabbat Usmonova said. He added that Hakimov also said officers subjected him to electric shock.

Several police officers who testified at the Dushanbe court hearing rejected Hakimov’s claims.

Usmonova said the court has rejected a request from Hakimov's lawyers for him to undergo a medical test to examine the alleged mistreatment.

Hakimov is accused of recruiting several Tajik citizens to fight for IS in Iraq and Syria.

Prosecutors allege he was "in regular telephone contact" in 2013 with his brother Abdujalil Hakimov and their neighbor Nusrat Nazarov, who they say were fighting alongside IS militants in Iraq at the time.Abdujalil Hakimov is believed to have been killed in fighting in Iraq.

Tajik authorities say some 1,100 Tajik nationals have joined IS militants in the Middle East, with most of them recruited in Russia, which hosts hundreds of thousands of Tajik migrant workers.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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