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Moldova: OSCE Expresses Concern Over Disappearance Of Opposition Leader

The OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, says it is concerned over the disappearance of a Moldovan opposition leader. Deputy Vlad Cubreacov of the People's Party Christian Democratic disappeared last week while on his way home. He was one of the main organizers of daily mass protests against Moldova's Communist government. Opposition leaders have accused the government of resorting to repression against political adversaries. The OSCE is urging the government to take quick action, but authorities say their investigation has produced no results so far.

Prague, 27 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The disappearance last week of a leading Moldovan opposition politician is sparking domestic and international concern, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as well as human rights groups urging Moldova's Communist authorities to shed light on the case.

Deputy Vlad Cubreacov, vice president of the opposition People's Party Christian Democratic (PPCD), was last seen on the evening of 21 March after being dropped off by an official car in the vicinity of his home in Moldova's capital, Chisinau. He never made it home.

Cubreacov's wife, Natalia, alerted party officials and the police the next morning. Authorities say they opened an inquiry but report no progress so far.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, who is the OSCE's chairman-in-office, told a news conference yesterday in Chisinau that he is concerned about Cubreacov's disappearance and is urging the government to act quickly to investigate the case.

"We expressed our concern regarding the situation of the missing member of parliament Vlad Cubreacov, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We insistently appealed to Moldovan authorities to investigate this case."

Gama, who was in Chisinau to mediate in Moldova's dispute with its breakaway Transdniester region, said he also urged the authorities to protect the freedoms of all citizens "and, in particular, parliamentarians."

Moldova's Interior Ministry says it has created a special investigation team made up of policemen, prosecutors, and members of the country's intelligence service, the SIS.

Iacob Guja, a spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, told RFE/RL that investigators are doing their best to solve the case, but he declined to give any details.

"We are doing everything possible to investigate the case. All existent versions are being taken into account and analyzed. We will be glad to announce when we have some results. There's nothing more that I can say."

But some opposition politicians and human rights groups say the pro-Russian Communist government is resorting to repression to eliminate political rivals. The opposition says the authorities blacklisted Cubreacov for his role in organizing mass protests in the capital in the last two months.

Moldova was part of Romania before World War II, and some 65 percent of its 4.5 million people speak what is locally called Moldovan -- virtually the same language as Romanian. The rest speak Russian.

Pro-Russian Communist President Vladimir Voronin's government came to power last year (February 2001) pledging to bring Moldova closer to Russia. His party won a sweeping victory, gaining more than two-thirds of the Moldovan parliament's 101 seats, while the pro-Romanian PPCD won only 11 seats.

The PPCD and Cubreacov himself have been the driving force behind a wave of rallies in the capital since January, called to protest the Communists' decision to introduce the mandatory study of Russian in schools and to give Russian "special status" beside Moldovan. Voronin's government later abolished the measure, but demonstrators continued the protests -- this time against the Communist authorities themselves.

The government responded by temporarily banning the PPCD last month and by interrogating participants in the protest -- most of them students.

The Communist-controlled parliament even tried, unsuccessfully, to strip Cubreacov and other PPCD leaders of their parliamentary immunity so that they could be prosecuted.

The Communist leadership is denying any involvement in Cubreacov's disappearance and is hinting that the opposition itself may have staged it.

While Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev deplored the deputy's disappearance, parliament speaker Eugenia Ostapciuk said it was "an inhuman act" meant to destabilize and aggravate the tense political situation in Moldova. She said Cubreacov's disappearance is "a consequence of the disorder created by the opposition's mass protests."

The Communist Party's leadership today in a statement went further, directly accusing the PPCD of staging the disappearance to destabilize the country.

However, human rights groups in Moldova accuse Voronin's regime of being behind Cubreacov's disappearance. Moldova's Helsinki Committee yesterday said in a statement that the government's recent actions and statements "have instigated certain forces" to act against Cubreacov. The committee did not rule out the government's direct involvement in his disappearance.

Meanwhile, PPCD leader Iurie Rosca accused the Communist government of lacking interest in solving Cubreacov's case. Rosca told RFE/RL that he is hoping for help from international bodies and that he has appealed to the OSCE to monitor the way the government is observing democratic standards.

"We brought the tragic disappearance of Vlad Cubreacov to the attention of our esteemed guests, and we expressed hope that the OSCE will continue to be interested in the observance of human rights and the political opposition's rights in Moldova, and in Moldova's return to a legal and democratic framework in accordance with European standards."

Chisinau's chief prosecutor, Petru Bobu, today said a special investigation team is working "non-stop" to find Cubreacov and has searched all water wells and basements in the capital. A large-scale operation scheduled for this week, Bobu said, had to be canceled "because of bad weather."