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A former commander of a communist labour camp in Romania has been charged with genocide for his alleged role in the deaths of 103 political prisoners.
Ion Ficior, 85, was commander at the Periprava labour 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, historians say.
Ficior’s role was brought to light by a Romanian institute that investigates communist-era crimes, which said that prisoners in the Periprava camp died from malnutrition, beatings, lack of medicine and from dysentery caused by drinking dirty water from the Danube.
Andrei Muraru, head of the Institute for Investigating Crimes of Communism, said: “We have clear evidence, which we gave to the prosecutors already, that Ion Ficior has implemented during his rule at Periprava Prison, between 1958 and 1963, an extermination regime for political detainees.”
The general prosecutors’ office said Ficior “introduced and coordinated a repressive detention regime, which was abusive, inhuman,” and that targeted political prisoners. They said 103 prisoners died while Ficior was in charge.
Ficior declined to speak to reporters after he was charged on Thursday, but said in an interview in June that only three or four died while he ran the camp. In the Associated Press interview, he was unrepentant, and said his former prisoners were Nazi supporters during World War II who deserved to be incarcerated.
Ficior is the second former prison commander in Romania to be charged with genocide. On Sept. 3, prosecutors charged 87-year-old Alexandru Visinescu for his leadership of the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963, where Romania’s elite were incarcerated.
In September, investigators dug up five skeletons from unmarked graves near Periprava. There were no coffins, clothes or personal possessions next to the bodies.
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.