Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu will be tried for “crimes against humanity” for his role in the bloody events that followed the anti-communist uprising and the fall of the Nicolae Ceaucescu in 1989, the Romanian prosecutor general’s office announced on Monday.
“This is a particularly important moment for Romanian justice that fulfills a debt of honor with history,” said prosecutor Augustin Lazar announcing the charges in Bucharest.
Besides 89-year-old Iliescu, former deputy prime minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, 78, and ex-commander of the Romanian Air Force Iosif Rus, 83, have also been indicted, while others who were initially accused have since died.
In a statement, the Prosecutor’s Office said that the defendants consciously accepted the murder of citizens by developing and implementing a strategy to quickly consolidate their power after the overthrow and execution of Ceausescu on December 25, 1989, fostering an atmosphere of chaos and confusion.
The investigation had been shelved in 2015 for lack of evidence, but was reopened in June 2016 by decision of the High Court of Cassation and Justice, years after the European Court of Human Rights asked the Romanian State to prosecute those responsible for the violence unleashed in the streets of the country.
A total of 862 people died and more than 2,150 were injured in confusing circumstances, with the official version of events at the time being that the violence was caused “terrorists” loyal to the former dictator. The repression of the anti-communist uprising ordered by Ceaucescu left about 200 dead.
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.
The conviction and hasty execution of Ceausescu and his wife Elena was also part of the plan “in a simulated criminal trial” on December 25, 1989, according to prosecutors.
Ion Iliescu led Romania from the end of 1989 to 1996, then from 2000 to 2004. Last year, when he was indicted, he had denounced the charges as “a joke”.
The date of Iliescu’s trial has not been announced yet.