Romania's ex-leader Iliescu charged over 1989 uprising

Former president is among several high-ranking officials charged with crimes against humanity over Romanian revolution.

    Ion Iliescu, who seized power in the uprising, has always denied any wrongdoing [File: Reuters]
    Ion Iliescu, who seized power in the uprising, has always denied any wrongdoing [File: Reuters]

    Romania's former President Ion Iliescu has been charged with crimes against humanity by the country's top prosecutor for his role in the aftermath of the chaotic and bloody uprising that toppled the communist government in 1989.

    Iliescu is accused of using state media to spread false information and stoke fears of a "terrorist threat", which contributed to "fratricidal fire, chaotic shootings and contradictory military orders", prosecutors said on Monday.

    Some 862 people were killed and thousands more injured in the days after Iliescu took power. He has repeatedly pleaded his innocence.

    Two other men - Gelu Voican Voiculescu, a former vice premier and former Air Force chief Iosif Rus - are being tried alongside Iliescu.

    Voican Voiculescu also denies wrongdoing, calling the prosecution "an act of political revenge". 

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    No date has been set for the trial of the three men, all of whom are accused of crimes against humanity. 

    The charge on Monday came as a three-year inquiry into the revolt was completed. Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar said that the files documenting the events - commonly referred to as the Revolution File - will be submitted to a court of law. 

    "The completion of this case by our military prosecutors is one of the most important goals in the management project I assumed publicly three years ago: to solve Romania's historical files," Lazar told reporters, calling the completion of the investigation " paying a debt of honour to history and our country".

    Romanian President Klaus Iohannis welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement that "finalizing the judicial investigation into the Revolution events, 30 years since communism's collapse, is a necessary act and honours our heroes." 

    "The crimes of the Revolution cannot go unpunished," he said. 

    The charges are the result of a three-year reinvestigation of files related to the uprising [Andreea Alexandru/AP Photo]

    'Terrorism psychosis'

    Iliescu, 89, enjoyed widespread popularity after the revolt against former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu, who was deposed and executed in December 1989. 

    Monday's official indictment relates to a five-day period when Iliescu seized power from Ceausescu after the former leader fled the Romanian capital, Bucharest, on December 22, 1989. Ceausescu and his wife Elena were summarily tried and executed on December 25.

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    Military investigators who reopened the so-called "Revolution File" in 2016 said the new political and military leadership that took control under Iliescu was directly involved in "broad and complex misleading activities of diversion and misinformation" via the country's state broadcaster in order to create a state of panic regarding a possible "terrorist threat".

    This also set the stage for what prosecutors called a "simulated criminal trial" that ended with the execution of the Ceausescus, the investigators said.

    Hundreds of people were killed in the aftermath of the uprising [File: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters]

    Under the scheme, a general "terrorism psychosis" was fueled, triggering "fratricidal fire, chaotic shootings and contradictory military orders" that led to the deaths of 862 people and the wounding of another 2,150 after Ceausescu left, prosecutors said, adding that about 13 million bullets had been used by police. 

    Iliescu was confirmed as interim president by a temporary parliament in February 1990. As a candidate for the National Salvation Front, he won 85 percent of a ballot in May 1990. 

    Critics at home and abroad accuse Iliescu, who stepped down in 2004, and other leading politicians of trying to block reform and protect the political heritage and ruling elite of the communist system. 

    Romania: The Spectre of Tyranny

    Al Jazeera World

    Romania: The Spectre of Tyranny

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies