A military court Monday sentenced 16 former Communist officials to prison for supporting a bloody crackdown that preceded the December, 1989, overthrow of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Five of the 21 defendants, all members of the Communist Party’s Politburo, were acquitted.
The five-member panel of military judges gave the harshest sentences--5 1/2 years each--to Ceausescu’s propaganda chief, Dumitru Popescu, 62, and Ioan Totu, 59, a former foreign minister.
Ludovic Fazekas, 65, who represented Hungarian ethnic minority interests in the Politburo, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years, while Totu’s predecessor as foreign minister, Stefan Andrei, 59, was jailed for two years and 10 months.
Seven other defendants received sentences of up to three years, but they will go free because the court either suspended their jail terms or deducted time served since their arrest 15 months ago.
Twenty-four Politburo members stood in the dock when the trial began last July, seven months after the bloody revolution in which Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were ousted after trying to crush anti-Communist demonstrations. But one died in jail and two, including former Prime Minister Constantin Dascalescu, were released on health grounds last year and sent to mental homes.
Those convicted had been charged with “aiding the criminal"--a reference to Ceausescu. They were accused of having approved the dictator’s orders to use force to put down demonstrations in the western city of Timisoara and in the capital, Bucharest.
Authorities say more than 1,000 people were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded in fighting with secret police before Ceausescu was overthrown. He and his wife were executed on Christmas Day, 1989.