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Romania Clears Ex-President Of Murder Charges

Ion Iliescu (file photo)
BUCHAREST (Reuters) -- Romania has cleared former President Ion Iliescu of murder charges related to miners' riots in 1990 that marked the country's difficult transition from communism, prosecutors have said.

The Prosecutor-General's Office said there was no evidence Iliescu had a role in the killing of four people when miners clashed with demonstrators protesting against the politician's rise to power after the fall of the communist regime.

Iliescu has repeatedly denied accusations he engineered the violence, which Western commentators said had hampered Romania's transition to a market economy and deterred badly needed foreign investment for years.

The politician, who ruled the country for all but eight years since the 1989 fall of communism, was suspected of masterminding the deadly riots, when 20,000 miners stormed the capital to crush anti-Iliescu protests.

After studying the case, prosecutors said Iliescu's plan to clear a main square in Bucharest of antigovernment protesters in June 1990 was backed by the then-premier, secret services, and the Interior Ministry and that it did not trigger the killings.

"The activity of the former president does not meet the legal conditions to be deemed a criminal deed," they said in a statement.

Prosecutors said killings had been a "personal initiative" of soldiers brought in by the government to control street violence.

Iliescu has been investigated for years by military prosecutors in connection with the deaths, but the inquiry against him was transferred to civil prosecutors last year following a constitutional court ruling.

The decision to clear Moscow-educated Iliescu, the founding father of Romania's powerful leftist opposition party PSD, came just weeks before a parliamentary election due on November 30.

The PSD is vying for the top spot in the ballot with the reformist opposition party of President Traian Basescu.