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Persecution in Romania

To the Editors:

The Romanian student leader Marian Munteanu was arrested in Bucharest on June 20, 1990, and charged with “incitement to violence.” Munteanu is a leading member of the League of Romanian Students, a group that was set up following the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989. Munteanu’s group took part in the demonstration by government opponents in University Square that was cleared by police on June 13, 1990. On June 14 Munteanu was hospitalized after having been severely beaten by members of the armed gangs of government supporters. He was arrested while in the hospital.

Helsinki Watch information indicates that some 177 people have been arrested for participating in the June 13 demonstrations; we know of no arrests connected with the violent actions of the miners who came to Bucharest at the government’s request and attacked people and property on July 14 and 15. Helsinki Watch recently received a letter from Bucharest concerning the treatment of Mr. Munteanu and others written by human rights activist Stefana Sterbei. Some excerpts follow:

On June 20, 1990, the police entered the Bucharest Emergency Hospital and arrested Marian Munteanu ‘for incitement to violence.’ Munteanu was at the time being treated for serious injuries suffered at the hands of miners during last week’s bloody incidents.

The people who have been arrested in Romania are the victims, not the aggressors. In the eyes of the Romanian authorities the unproven accusation of ‘incitement to violence’ is more serious than the actual violence that was committed by the miners, traces of which are still visible on Munteanu’s body. The immediate purpose of his arrest was not to prevent him from doing something but to punish him for his past activities…. One wonders why the authorities are interrogating a hospitalized man under arrest for suspicion of incitement to violence while those guilty of the thousands of acts of assault, destruction and robbery committed on June 14–15 went home free and were even publicly thanked by the President….

Marian Munteanu is not an ordinary citizen. He is the president of one of the most influential student organizations in Romania. In this capacity, after the May 20 elections, he not only did not call for violence, he actually requested that the hunger strikes held as a protest against Jan Iliescu’s candidacy stop and that the strikers voluntarily evacuate University Square….

From East to West, students these days have become an essential factor in any political equation. The political weight of the Romanian students has risen to a level rarely reached in other countries. From this point of view, the way Munteanu has been treated is symbolic. We cannot hope to reestablish civil peace, or to advance toward democracy and reconstruction by terrorizing the students and paralyzing their organizations or by setting against each other workers and intellectuals, or the capital and the rest of the country….

A continuation of the present situation opens the darkest and most threatening possibilities. The government needs to signal its intentions to avoid this road by specific actions, and not by further speeches.

A first step toward real progress would be Marian Munteanu’s immediate release. If need be, he can be legally investigated while he recovers under medical supervision. A second step would be the immediate release of all those arrested without proof or legal mandate. A third step would be to release the names of those prosecuted for the pogrom perpetrated on June 14 and 15 against Bucharest’s civilian population. Finally, a fourth step must be the prosecution of any policemen guilty of brutality or involved in the provocations of June 13–15, as well as those responsible for the brutal interrogation of the people arrested.”

Jeri Laber
Executive Director, Helsinki Watch
New York City

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