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Former Romanian leader to face crimes against humanity trial

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu is to be tried for crimes against humanity for his role in the country's bloody 1989 anti-communist uprising, Romania's top prosecutor said Monday in announcing the conclusion of a judicial investigation.

Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar said files documenting the events of 30 years ago, commonly referred to as the Revolution File, will be submitted to a court now that the investigation is done. He called completing the process "paying a debt of honor to history and our country."

Iliescu is the most prominent figure to face trial, along with Gelu Voican-Voiculescu, a former vice premier, and former Air Force Chief Iosif Rus. They are all accused of crimes against humanity. The charges refer to a five-day period when Iliescu seized power after former Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu fled Bucharest on Dec. 22, 1989. Ceausescu and his wife were summarily tried and executed on Dec. 25. Some 1,100 people died during the revolt, the vast majority after Ceausescu's ouster.

Military investigators who reopened the Revolution File in 2016 said the new political and military leadership that took control was directly involved in spreading fake news via the state broadcaster in order to create a state of panic regarding a possible "terrorist threat." This also set the stage for a "simulated trial" that ended with the execution of the Ceausescus.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis saluted the announcement in a statement, saying that "finalizing the judicial investigation into the Revolution events, 30 years since Communism collapsed, is a necessary act and honors our heroes." He concluded that "the crimes of the Revolution cannot go unpunished."

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