CHISINAU -- A former high-ranking Moldovan government official has been found guilty of racist remarks against the Romany community and ordered to apologize, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
A Chisinau court ruled that Anatol Plugaru, a former director of Moldova's intelligence service and an ex-parliament deputy, offended Roma when he said in public in February 2010 that members of that ethnic minority "would rather make a new baby than wash the existing one."
The court ruled that Plugaru, 60, must publicly apologize to the Romany community "in the same format" in which he made that comment, which means a press conference.
Plugaru told RFE/RL on January 12 that his remark was just a "joke" and he should not be punished because he didn't insult "any Gypsy in particular." He said the Moldovan courts should resolve more important issues.
The verdict was decided on December 28 but announced on January 12 by Doina Ioana Straisteanu, the lawyer who represented the Romany organization that filed a formal complaint against Plugaru for his comment.
Straisteanu told RFE/RL that she applauds the court ruling, saying it is the first time in Moldova that someone has been punished for making derogatory remarks against the country's Roma.
Officially, there are some 12,000 Roma living in Moldova, but rights activists say the actual number is between 140,000 and 200,000. They say the discrepancy is a result of most Roma not wanting to register themselves as such during the official census for fear of discrimination.
Plugaru, who owns a construction company and works as a political analyst, was the head of Moldova's intelligence service in 1991-92.
In July, Plugaru said Moldova should not adopt an antidiscrimination law that also protects homosexuals because they are the same as "necrophiles, zoophiles, and pedophiles."