BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian institute urged prosecutors on Wednesday to bring genocide charges against the Communist commander of a former Romanian labor camp, saying he was responsible for 103 deaths.
Ion Ficior, 85, was deputy commander then commander of the Periprava labor camp from 1958 to 1963. The camp in the remote Danube Delta village near the Black Sea held up to 2,000 prisoners.
Romania had about 500,000 political prisoners under the Communist regime, about one-fifth of whom died while in detention, according to historians, who say most prisoners were simply people who had fallen afoul of the Communist regime.
Andrei Muraru, head of the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, handed the request to the country's general prosecutor Wednesday. He accused Ficior of being responsible for 103 deaths at the camp from malnutrition, beatings, a lack of medicine and from drinking dirty water from the Danube, which caused dysentery.
"It was an extermination camp," said Muraru. "It was a repressive, excessive, inhuman and discretionary regime."
The youngest person to die was 19 and the oldest 71, Muraru said, adding that he asked prosecutors to put a travel ban on Ficior since his son lives in the United States.
Ficior could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in an interview with The Associated Press in June he insisted that only three or four people died under his command. He was unrepentant in saying that his former prisoners were militiamen — known as Legionnaires — who supported the Nazis during World War II and who deserved to be incarcerated.
There was no immediate response from the prosecutor's office in Bucharest to the filing.
The institute says it spoke to 21 former prisoners to build its case against Ficior.
"Ficior beat us every day with a wooden stick," former prisoner Ianos Mokar told the AP in June, adding that he terrorized inmates by "jumping over us on his white mare."
On Monday, institute investigators began digging to search for human remains in Periprava. They have already found five skeletons of former prisoners who appear to have been dumped naked into mass unmarked graves, Dan Talnaru, general manager of the institute, told the AP on Wednesday, speaking by telephone from the village.
There were no coffins, clothes or personal possessions next to the bodies, he said.
On Sept. 3, Romanian prosecutors charged another former prison commander, 87-year-old Alexandru Visinescu, with genocide for his leadership of the Ramnicu Sarat prison where Romania's elite were incarcerated.
Visinescu told reporters he was only following orders. He is free pending a trial, but no date for it has been set yet.
About 3,500 former Romanian political prisoners from the 1950s and 1960s are still alive, down from 40,000 who were alive when communism was overthrown in 1989.