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Romania: Miners March To Protest Leader's Prison Sentence

Petrosani, Romania; 16 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - Miners on a protest march to Bucharest arrived in the western Romanian city of Targu Jiu this afternoon to show support for their leader, Miron Cozma, who faces a new jail sentence.

The miners gathered in the central square and chanted while security troops watched.

Another 3,000 coal miners gathered in a village nearby to try to prevent Interior Ministry troops from arriving to arrest Cozma. The miners are about 240 kilometers northwest of Bucharest.

They are protesting yesterday's decision to sentence Cozma to 18 years in jail for his role in leading anti-reform riots in 1991 which led to the downfall of the then government.

As today's protests gathered momentum, Romania's Interior Minister, Constantin Dudu Ionescu, condemned the miners protest as "similar to an act of terrorism." He said troops are preparing to take all measures to prevent miners from reaching Bucharest.

Meanwhile, Cozma's lawyers said they are asking the Supreme Court to delay his arrest by three months, claiming it affects the coal unions' activity.