The brother of executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu denied murder and genocide charges Monday at the beginning of one of the most high-profile trials since the December revolution.
Gen. Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu, who faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted, is the closest Ceausescu relative to stand trial for crimes stemming from Communist dictator's rule.
He was given the name Andruta to distinguish him from his older brother, whom he closely resembles.
The former chief of a security police training unit is accused of shooting to death seven people Dec. 21 during heavy fighting between loyalist forces and anti-government demonstrators. Ceausescu's regime fell the next day. He also is charged with inciting others to commit genocide, attempted murder and weapons offenses.
Prosecutors said they will produce witnesses who saw Gen. Ceausescu shoot seven people in the crowd outside the Intercontinental Hotel in Bucharest. He maintained he fired into the air.
"I fired five or six bullets--a whole magazine--into the air," Ceausescu said, adding he could not have killed anyone because he was behind the security forces and could not have shot through them.
The defendant, dressed in a brown-and-gray striped prison uniform, appeared nervous during the court appearance, grinding his teeth, rocking in his chair and shaking slightly. As he entered the courtroom he began to cry on seeing his daughter, who has not been permitted to visit her father.