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Romania Ex-President To Stand Trial For 'Crimes Against Humanity'

Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu giving a speech in Bucharest in 2004.

Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu is to stand trial for crimes against humanity for his role in the aftermath of Romania's bloody 1989 revolt that toppled communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime.

"It is a particularly important moment for Romania's justice system that is fulfilling a debt of honor to history," chief prosecutor Augustin Lazar said in Bucharest on April 8.

Lazar's announcement caps a decades-long investigation which was often met with official reluctance to revisit the aftermath of Ceausescu fleeing Bucharest on December 22, 1989.

Iliescu had been a government minister before being sidelined by Ceausescu in the early 1970s.

He reemerged as leader of the National Salvation Front, a group which took control of the country after Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, fled in the face of a growing popular revolt which began in the western city of Timisoara and spread to the rest of the country.

After Iliescu took control on December 22, 862 people were killed.

Iliescu, now 89, was elected president in 1990, reelected in 1992, and served another term from 2000 to 2004.

Iliescu, who was indicted in December, and former Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu are accused of "directly spreading misinformation through televised appearances and press releases, contributing to the institution of a generalized psychosis."

Their statements increased the risk of "instances of friendly fire, chaotic shooting, and contradictory military orders."

Iliescu, who underwent heart surgery last month, will also have to answer accusations of "crimes against humanity" over the repression of a protest in Bucharest in 1990 that left at least four people dead.

Both Iliescu and Voiculescu have denied any wrongdoing with Voiculescu describing the accusation as an "act of political revenge." No date for trial has been announced.

"Crimes committed during the [1989] revolution cannot remain unpunished,” President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement on April 8.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian Service,,, and AFP
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