Europe

Ion Iliescu: Romania's ex-leader charged with crimes against humanity

Romanian demonstrators gather in front of the headquarters of the Romanian Communist Party in Bucharest, Romania, on 22 December 1989 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The charges are the result of a long investigation into Romania's bloody and chaotic 1989 revolution

Romania's former President Ion Iliescu has been charged with crimes against humanity for his role in the aftermath of the violent revolt that toppled the communist regime in 1989.

Mr Iliescu and two others are accused of spreading disinformation in their TV appearances and statements, increasing the risk of "chaotic shooting".

After he took power, 862 people were killed. The charges come at the end of a long-running investigation.

Mr Iliescu, 89, denies any wrongdoing.

The two other men charged are former Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu and former Air Force Cdr Iosif Rus. No date for the trial has yet been set.

"It is a particularly important moment for Romania's justice system that is fulfilling a debt of honour to history," Chief Prosecutor Augustin Lazar told reporters.

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Image caption Ion Iliescu served two terms as Romanian president

Prosecutors accuse Mr Iliescu and Mr Voiculescu of "directly spreading misinformation through televised appearances and press releases, contributing to the institution of a generalised psychosis".

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

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Image caption Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu during their summary trial

Their actions are also blamed for the mock trial that resulted in the summary execution of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena on 25 December 1989.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption People marching in Romania's capital, Bucharest, in 1989 to celebrate the demise of Nicolae Ceausescu

Mr Rus is accused of ordering an air force regiment to change its insignia, which led to friendly fire that contributed to the deaths of 40 soldiers and eight civilians at Otopeni International Airport, Balkan Insight reports.

Some 862 people were killed after 22 December when Mr Iliescu assumed power, prosecutors say.

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Media captionCamelia Sucu was 24 when she took part in the Romanian revolution

Mr Iliescu had been a minister in the government of Nicolae Ceausescu, and went on to lead the National Salvation Front, which took control of the country after the uprising which began in the western city of Timisoara in December 1989.

He became interim president that month, was elected president in 1990 and served another term from 2000 to 2004.

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

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