BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Prosecutors at Romania’s top appeals court on Wednesday called for a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander convicted of crimes against humanity for the deaths of 12 political prisoners.
Alexandru Visinescu, 90, was convicted in July for the deaths at the Ramnicu Sarat prison in eastern Romania during his 1956 to 1963 command. Visinescu, the first commander of a communist-era jail in Romania to stand trial, appealed to the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
At the final hearing Wednesday, Visinescu wept and pleaded: „Let me die!” He has said he was following orders, but declined to testify either verbally or in writing.
He was asked six times by the judge and prosecutor why inmates died under his command. He answered just once, suggesting they died of old age.
The prison housed people who had been members of the intellectual, political and military elite in Romania before World War II and who had run afoul of the communist authorities.
All were held in solitary confinement and could communicate with each other only by Morse code. Prosecutors said former prisoners testified that they were denied access to medical treatment, heating, exercise and adequate food. Beatings were common. Nearly 140 inmates were incarcerated during the seven years Visinescu was in command.
The court will make a final ruling on Feb. 10 and it will also rule on the level of compensation to be paid to relatives of victims. Visinescu, who is free pending sentence, does not have to be present for the ruling.
Separately, a well-known former political prisoner who had claimed that Visinescu beat and cursed prisoners at the women’s prison he ran before he went to Ramnicu Sarat, died Tuesday.
Ion Barbu, the head of the Bucharest branch of the Former Political Detainees Association, told The Associated Press that Aurora Dumitrescu, 84, died of cancer. Dumitrescu was sentenced to six years in prison for belonging to an anti-communist resistance group when she was a teenager.
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