Call for Romania communist-era prison chief to face trial

A Romanian body investigating Communist-era crimes called on prosecutors Tuesday to bring charges against the former commander of a notorious prison, accusing him of "aggravated murder" and "torture".

The institute said it wanted to bring charges against Alexandru Visinescu, 88, over the deaths of at least five political prisoners in Ramnicu Sarat jail, which he ran between 1956 and 1963.

A lack of food and medical care and "frequent beatings, applied to prisoners for no reason" were cited as part of Visinescu's "extermination regime", according to the institute.

Described by former political prisoners as a "man of extreme cruelty", Visinescu went on to manage other prisons following the closure of the jail in the country's east.

"During imprisonment in Ramnicu Sarat, political prisoners were isolated, lived in miserable conditions, suffered from unbearable cold ... and were victims of terrible physical punishments applied for minor misdemeanour," it added.

The investigating body said it had sent prosecutors hundreds of documents and testimonies to back its request.

More than 600,000 people were imprisoned for political reasons during the Communist era that lasted from 1945 until 1989, notably under the brutal regime of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who ruled from 1967 to 1989.