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Trial Begins For Former Moldovan Interior Minister, Police Chief

Cleaning up in front of the presidential building in Chisinau on April 8, 2009
CHISINAU -- A Moldovan court today began the first high-profile trial over the violent protests that followed the country's disputed April 2009 parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

The violence left at least one demonstrator dead and led to the arrests of hundreds of protesters, many of whom claim they were beaten in detention.

Former Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc and Chisinau's former police commissioner, Vladimir Botnari, are on trial for "negligence with serious consequences." If convicted, they face between three and seven years in prison.

Papuc and Botnari have pleaded innocent.

Botnari told reporters outside the courthouse today that the trial is "political revenge" and that he only did his duty.

A low-ranking police officer is facing a separate trial in connection with the death of a young demonstrator.

The unrest followed the disputed April election in which the Communist Party was alleged to have secured a parliamentary majority by committing fraud.

Moldova's current ruling coalition came to power in repeat elections held several months later. The new government -- a coalition composed of four pro-Western parties -- pledged to investigate last year's violence.