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Ex-prison chief gets 20 years for detainee deaths

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Romania's highest court on Wednesday rejected the appeal of a communist-era prison boss sentenced to 20 years for the deaths of 103 prisoners more than half a century ago.

Ioan Ficior, head of the Periprava camp in southeast Romania between 1958 and 1963, was found guilty last March of "inhuman treatment". Under his command, detainees were subjected to routine beatings, overwork, had food and medicine withheld and were kept in unheated cells in a region that can get below freezing temperatures in winter.

"He totally deserves this punishment. He was left alone for too long. He was a cruel man," a former prisoner and witness in the case, Ion Radu, told Romanian broadcaster Digi24. Radu was at the Periprava camp for 12 years after he was convicted of belonging to an anti-communist organization.

At least 103 prisoners died at the camp, considered one of the country's worst, when he was in command.

The 89-year-old has always maintained that he was merely carrying out orders and did his best to provide prisoners with food and medicine.

In addition to the jail sentence, the court also ordered Ficior to pay 310,000 euros ($333,380) in compensation to the victims and their families.

In September 2013, a body investigating communist-era crimes called on prosecutors to press charges against Ficior as part of a wider campaign to bring 35 former camp commanders to justice more than 20 years after the fall of communism in 1989.

He is the second former camp commander to be jailed for crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile a third prison director, 85-year-old Marian Petrescu, was sent to trial earlier this month for "inhumane treatment" of opposition politicians in the 1960s.

Over 600,000 people were jailed in Romania for political reasons between 1945 and 1989, according to the Sighet Memorial for the victims of communism.

The most severe crackdowns took place in the 1950s.



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