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, who is 90 years old, was convicted in July for the deaths at the Ramnicu Sarat lockup in eastern Romania during his 1956 to 1963 command. Visinescu, the first commander of a communist-era jail in Romania to stand trial, appealed at the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
At the final hearing Wednesday, Visinescu — dressed in a navy overcoat and tartan scarf — 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 the intellectual, political and military prewar elite, who were held in solitary confinement at the prison where intellectuals and political and military officials who had run afoul of the communist authorities were tortured and sometimes killed. Nearly 140 inmates were incarcerated under his command.
Prosecutors said former prisoners testified that they were denied access to medical treatment, heating, exercise and adequate food. Beatings were common and prisoners communicated in Morse code.
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.