A jailed miners’ leader has been pardoned in a controversial parting gesture by Romania’s outgoing president, Ion Iliescu. In the early 1990s, Miron Cozma was at the forefront of riots that helped topple the country’s first post-communist government. Iliescu signed a decree pardoning him before he hands over to Traian Basescu, the winner of Sunday’s presidential poll. Describing the pardon as act of “clemency”, he stressed that it was not the same as exonerating Cozma, whose criminal record would not be wiped clean.
Cozma was given an 18-year jail term almost a decade after the riots. The penalty was handed down in 1999, the year in which he led further turbulent protests. Back in 1990, miners swept through Bucharest, leaving a trail of destruction in a protest against those opposed to President Iliescu’s regime.
The following year, they marched against Prime Minister Petre Roman who was forced from office. As Iliescu wanted to slow down reforms favoured by Roman, it was claimed he himself had been behind the violence. This is something the outgoing president has always denied.