Ceausescu's Brother Gets 15-Year Prison Term

From Reuters

The brother of executed Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday for inciting genocide and attempted murder during the December revolution, court officials said.

A military court in Bucharest handed down the sentence on Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu, 66, making him the first member of his family to be punished in the courts since the Stalinist dictator was shot on Christmas Day.

The former general and head of secret police training, was convicted after a three-month trial and has 10 days to appeal.

He was accused of killing several demonstrators and ordering his men to shoot at crowds during the uprising that ousted his brother.

Judge Adrian Nitoiu, pointing out that the dictator's brother could have been jailed for life, said, "The court verdict was an act of justice and not revenge."

The former general, who bears a remarkable resemblance to his older brother, told the court: "I am the traitor's brother, but I am not guilty of the charges brought against me."

Romania abolished the death penalty soon after the dictator's execution.

Meanwhile, Bucharest university students began a three-day strike Thursday to protest arrests and violence during anti-government demonstrations last week while a subdued capital prepared to mark Ceausescu's fall six months ago.

Students' league spokesman Radu Manolescu said more than 2,000 students were boycotting studies.

At his side, a sobbing Letitia Plokay said she feared for the life of her husband Stefan, a 26-year-old philology student, whom she had not seen since he was dragged away by the miners who crushed last week's demonstrations.

"The police say he was taken away yesterday, but they could not say where," she said.

Manolescu said the strikers were particularly concerned to have Marian Munteanu freed from custody because he was a symbol of the peaceful protest movement.

Munteanu, who was injured during last week's violence, was arrested in a hospital Monday on charges of inciting and committing violence and was taken to a prison hospital.

The students' strike action, while largely symbolic, struck a jarring note between Wednesday's inauguration of President Ion Iliescu and ceremonies today to mark Ceausescu's downfall.

Iliescu promised in his inaugural speech Wednesday to keep Romania on the path of democracy, but Western diplomats and opposition leaders said deeds are needed now to prove he meant what he said.

The United States boycotted the inauguration and the European Community deferred the signing of a trade and cooperation agreement with Romania to protest Iliescu's role in last week's violence.

U.S. Ambassador Alan Green met Foreign Minister Sergiu Celac Thursday for what Green later called a frank discussion.

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