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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA (BosNewsLife)– For the first time since communism collapsed in Romania 25 years ago, a former prison commander went on trial Monday, July 14, for crimes against humanity because of his alleged involvement in persecuting opponents of the previously regime. The proceedings follow the death of a close ally of late Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who persecuted thousands including devoted Christians.
Romanian prosecutors are convinced that ex-commander Alexandru Visinescu was responsible for the torture and murdering of prisoners who he considered a threat to the country’s old order. BosNewsLife published the name of the suspect as he was publicly identified.
Survivors say the delay in bringing Visinescu and others to justice was a cynical tactic by Romania’s new leaders to avoid accountability themselves, as some of them were officials in the previous Communist regime.
He goes on trial for deaths that happened while he supervised Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963.
Prosecutors say 14 people died under Visinescu’s command, and corpses showed signs of malnutrition. Authorities accuse Visinescu of denying medical treatment and postponing the hospitalization of gravely sick prisoners. Yet the now 88-year Visinescu has denied wrongdoing.
In one incident he even cursed journalists and tried to hit a cameraman near his home in central Bucharest. He strongly rejected claims that he was a criminal saying: ” I only my job.”
Among those held in Communist-run prisons were priests and other Christians as well as ministers, diplomats, army officers, farmers, and workers who were seen as a threat to those in power.
Historians say one-fifth of the at least 500,000 jailed opponents died. Visinescu’s trial comes a day after news emerged that a close ally of Romania’s late dictator Nicoleau Ceausescu passed away.
Emil Bobu died at the age of 87 after suffering a heart attack at a Bucharest hospital. He was known as ruthless.
In December 1989, Ceausescu sent Bobu to the city of Timisoara to stamp out an uprising, sparked by dissident Reformed Pastor László Tőkés.
He failed and days later, he accompanied Ceausescu on a helicopter, fleeing angry crowds in Bucharest. Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed that month on Christmas Day.
In 1990 Bobu was sentenced to prison for involvement in genocide, which was later downgraded to complicity in aggravated manslaughter.
He was released in 1993 on health grounds.