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A Romanian body investigating Communist-era crimes called on prosecutors Wednesday to bring charges against the former commander of a labour camp, accusing him of causing the death of 103 detainees.
"Colonel Ioan Ficior introduced and oversaw an abusive and inhumane regime of detention against political prisoners jailed at the Periprava labour camp" in the Danube Delta between 1958 and 1963, the director of the Institute for the investigation of Communist crimes, Andrei Muraru, told a press conference.
"This extermination regime led to the death of at least 103 political detainees," he added, saying the Institute had sent prosecutors hundreds of documents to back its case.
The move is part of a campaign by the Institute to bring 35 former prison commanders to justice, more than 20 years after the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989.
More than 600,000 people were sentenced and jailed in Romania for political reasons between 1945 and 1989, according to the Sighet Memorial for the victims of communism.
The prosecutor's office confirmed receiving the Institute's request.
Ioan Ficior, 85, denied the allegations against him in an exclusive interview to Gandul newspaper. He said no prisoners died at the camp "because I or the officers that were there beat them".
The Institute wants Ficior to be charged with "genocide", arguing that "he submitted a group of political detainees to conditions that led to their physical destruction".
Genocide is defined by the United Nations as an "act committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".
Political groups are not included in the definition which could be a hurdle in the Ficior case, experts say.
But Muraru said he believed "Ficior can be prosecuted for genocide".
"Some States extended the definition of genocide. In Romania, we have already had cases of top Communist officials prosecuted for genocide" after the fall of the dictatorship in 1989, he said.
Former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were convicted of genocide in 1989 in a makeshift trial. They were executed on December 25, 1989.