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1989 Comes Back to Haunt Former Romanian Leader Iliescu

Three former senior officials charged with crimes against humanity for creating an atmosphere of terror in the wake of Ceausescu’s downfall.

9 April 2019

Romania’s former President Ion Iliescu and other former high officials will stand trial for fomenting the violent aftermath of the 1989 revolution against the Communist government.


Military prosecutors indicted Iliescu, former Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, and the former air force chief Iosif Rus for crimes against humanity, Balkan Insight reports.


Iliescu (pictured) became president after the fall of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu on 21 December 1989.


The indictment states that he and other leaders of the National Salvation Front (FSN), established in the wake of Ceausescu’s flight and subsequent execution, took control of the national security and defense agencies and sought to foment chaos in order to seize political power.


Prosecutors maintain the FSN used the security agencies and the army to create “a generalized psychosis of terrorism” that contributed to 862 deaths and 2,150 people being wounded as the plot leaders deliberately used the media to make confusing and contradictory statements, Balkan Insight says.


Chief Prosecutor Augustin Lazar apologized for the length of the case. Investigators compiled more than 3,000 volumes of files – 2,000 since Lazar took office in 2016 pledging to restart the stalled investigation, Romania-Insider writes.


Iliescu denies the charges, while Voiculescu denounced the indictment as “an act of political revenge,” the BBC reports.


The date for the trial has not been announced.


Iliescu served as president from 1989 to 1996 and again from 2000 to 2004. He also faces charges over the suppression of protests in 1990 after his victory in the presidential election that year, when miners were allegedly sent in to beat protesters in Bucharest.



  • With his mandate ending this month and renewal in the hands of political foes in the government, Lazar is facing allegations over his own role under communism. Speaker of Parliament Calin Popescu Tariceanu has asked President Klaus Iohannis to fire Lazar for allegedly refusing to release a political detainee in the 1980s, according to Balkan Insight.


  • Charges against former Prime Minister Petre Roman were dropped for lack of evidence, Romania-Insider reports.


  • Other former officials suspected of taking part in the alleged plot have already died.


Compiled by Rose Joy Smith

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