Romania: 4 to stand trial for 1985 death of dissident

(AP) — Four former communist officials, including the former chief of the feared Securitate secret police, will stand trial for the death of a dissident in prison under the regime of former leader Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian military prosecutors said Monday.

Gheorghe Ursu died two months after being arrested in 1985, after allegedly being beaten repeatedly by interrogators and inmates on the orders of the Securitate secret police. They claimed he had kept a diary in which he criticized the Ceausescu regime.

Prosecutor Marian Lazar said Tudor Postelnicu, who headed the Securitate from 1978 to 1987, former Interior Minister George Homosteanu, and retired Securitate secret police officers Marian Parvulescu and Vasile Hodis will face trial at a civilian court for crimes against humanity.

Lazar said the Securitate had lied that Ursu had been detained for possessing foreign currency, which was illegal, to disguise the political nature of his arrest. Prior to his arrest, Ursu was systematically interrogated, subjected to violence, and put under surveillance due to his links with writers and other intellectuals, and connections to the anti-communist Radio Free Europe, Lazar said.

Lazar also said Postelnicu and Homosteanu had lied to U.S. politicians about Ursu’s situation and had hidden the real cause of his death.

Ursu’s son Andrei, a Romanian-born U.S. citizen, went on hunger strike in 2014 to protest the lack of investigation into his father’s death, and the case was eventually reopened.

Romania has been slow to prosecute those who allegedly committed abuses under Ceausescu because many officials retained their jobs after the regime collapsed in 1990.

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