Romania: ex-prison chief gets 20 years for detainee deaths

AP News
Posted: Mar 29, 2017 11:45 AM
Romania: ex-prison chief gets 20 years for detainee deaths

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian court on Wednesday upheld the 20-year sentence of a former prison commander for the deaths of 103 political prisoners while he was in charge of a communist-era labor camp.

The High Court of Cassation and Justice rejected the appeal of Ion Ficior, 88, who has denied wrongdoing and said he was merely following orders. Ficior was convicted of crimes against humanity.

Police later arrived at his home near the Gara de Nord railway station. They handcuffed and detained Ficior, who was dressed in a dark jacket and dark felt hat — despite the warm weather— and escorted him to a car.

Ficior was commander at the Periprava labor camp from 1958 to 1963. During his trial, former detainees accused him of beatings, a lack of food and medicine, overwork and unheated cells.

Ion Radu, a witness at the trial and a prisoner at Periprava in the Danube Delta in eastern Romania for 12 years, welcomed the sentence. Radu was serving a sentence for belonging to an anti-communist organization.

"Too many people died there and it was considered normal," he told Digi24. "He totally deserves this punishment. He was left alone for too long. He was a cruel man."

The court also upheld a ruling obliging Ficior together with the interior ministry, the finance ministry and the National Penitentiary Administration to pay a total of 310,000 euros ($335,000) in damages to eight former political prisoners and their families.

In 2016, in the first case of its kind in Romania, a court sentenced another former commander, Alexandru Visinescu, to 20 years, for the abuse and deaths of prisoners at the Ramnicu Sarat prison, which he ran from 1956 to 1963.