Nicolae Plesita dies at 80; ruthless Romanian secret police chief

Associated Press

Gen. Nicolae Plesita, a die-hard communist and ruthless chief of the Securitate secret police who arranged shelter in Romania for terrorist Carlos the Jackal and was tried for the bombing of Radio Free Europe, has died.

He was 80.

Plesita died Monday in a Romanian Intelligence Service hospital in Bucharest, where he was being treated for various illnesses including diabetes, the Agerpres and Mediafax news agencies reported, citing family members.

Plesita commanded the Securitate’s foreign intelligence service from 1980 to 1984. He gained notoriety for his contacts with Venezuelan-born terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal.

Ramirez was hired by the Securitate on the orders of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to assassinate Romanian dissidents in France and bomb the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich, Germany, in 1981.

Nine people were injured in the attack on the radio station, which broadcast into communist Eastern Europe.

In 1998, Plesita told court prosecutors that Ceausescu had ordered him to find temporary shelter for Ramirez in Romania after the bombing. Ceausescu sold arms and explosives to Ramirez and enabled him to produce counterfeit passports and driver’s licenses, Romanian media reported.

After the 1989 anti-communist revolt, Plesita faced a military trial in Romania for being an accomplice in the Radio Free Europe attack.

The trial was interrupted several times, and he was eventually found innocent earlier this year.

In post-communist Romania, Plesita continued to attract attention with his revelations from the communist period and showed no remorse for having crushed anti-communist dissent.

Plesita’s public appearances and relaxed manner were accepted in post-communist Romania partly because many former high-ranking Securitate officers still have key positions in politics and business.

Born April 16, 1929, in Curtea de Arges, Romania, Plesita was recruited to the Securitate as a teenager and rose in the ranks after he helped eradicate the last vestiges of anti-communist resistance in the Transylvanian Mountains in the late 1950s.

In 1977 he helped stifle striking coal miners in the Jiu Valley whose unrest posed a threat to Ceausescu.

It was after this that he was promoted to head foreign intelligence.