Romanian justice reopens 1990 miners’ riots file

Romanian justice reopens 1990 miners’ riots file

Bucharest, March 9, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Daniel Stroe

Romania’s High Court of Justice has given its green light to a decision by prosecutor-general Tiberiu Nitu to reopen an investigation into the miners’ riots on 13-15 June 1990, the most brutal of the total six uprisings staged by miners in the Jiu Valley which left a serious stain on Romania’s post-communist image.

The file directly envisages former president Ion Iliescu, Romania’s first post-communist head of state, whom critics accuse of inviting miners to Bucharest to quell street protests against Iliescu’s election as president. At that time, protesters accused Iliescu of being a member of the former communist apparatus disguised as a pro-democratic politician.

Also indicted in the same file are, among others, Virgil Magureanu, the first director of SRI (Romania’s internal intelligence service), Victor Atanasie Stanculescu (former minister of Defense), Corneliu Diamandescu (former chief of the Romanian Police) and Petre Petre (former chief of a gendarmes unit in Bucharest).

Nitu, Romania’s prosecutor-general, ordered the file to be reopened last month, rejecting three resolutions of removal from criminal prosecution of the people involved in this file. His decision comes after Romania was obliged to continue investigations in this file following a decision of the European Courts of Human Rights passed on 17 September 2014. The Court argued last year Romania has the moral obligation to serve justice to the victims of the riots, regardless of the time elapsed since the dramatic events.

The representative of the victims say about 100 persons died during the violent events of the summer in 19990 when thousands of miners stormed downtown Bucharest to disperse pro-democracy protesters denouncing Iliescu’s election. The exact number of the deaths is controversial, but the victims’ association says their toll has never been refuted by the authorities. Over a 1000 people were wounded.

As the pro-democratic protests expanded that summer, Ion Iliescu appeared on state television (the only TV station at that time) and called on “all responsible and conscious to gather around the government and the state television in order to stem the forceful attempts of these extremist groups”. The miners embarked on three trains and rushed to Bucharest. The whole city was besieged by the miners who attacked anyone looking intellectual and ransacked the headquarters of the opposition parties under the approving supervision of the security forces. Iliescu thanked them later on for the “civic spirit” they had proven on the streets of Bucharest.

“I have no comment, it is the duty of the justice to see, analyze and finalize. I do not have any reasons to have surprises or not to have surprises”, Ion Iliescu reacted today to Gandul, a news website. The miners’ riots in 1990, which severely shook the grounds of the newly born democratic Romania, have remained a gap in a justice system which has recently started doing its job in earnest, sending influential politicians, once deemed protected by impunity, behind the bars.