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Former commander of Romanian labor camp is charged with genocide

Prosecutors say Ion Ficior had a role in the deaths of 103 political prisoners.

Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

Prosecutors say Ion Ficior had a role in the deaths of 103 political prisoners.

BUCHAREST — A former commander of a communist labor camp in Romania was charged with genocide for his alleged role in the deaths of 103 political prisoners, prosecutors said Thursday.

Ion Ficior, 85, was deputy commander, then commander, of the Periprava labor camp from 1958 to 1963. The camp in the remote Danube Delta village near the Black Sea held up to 2,000 prisoners.

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Romania had about 500,000 political prisoners under the Communist regime, about one-fifth of whom died while in detention, according to historians, who say most prisoners had simply fallen afoul of the Communist regime.

Ficior’s role was revealed by a Romanian organization, the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes. The institute said prisoners in the Periprava camp died from malnutrition, beatings, lack of medicine, and dysentery caused by drinking dirty water from the Danube.

The general prosecutors’ office said Ficior ‘‘introduced and coordinated a repressive detention regime, which was abusive, inhuman,’’ and targeted political prisoners. It said 103 prisoners died while Ficior was in charge.

Ficior declined to speak to reporters after he was charged but had told the Associated Press in June that only three or four died while he ran the camp. In the interview, he was unrepentant, saying his former prisoners were Nazi supporters during World War II who deserved to be incarcerated.

Ficior is the second former prison commander in Romania to be charged with genocide.

On Sept. 3, prosecutors charged 87-year-old Alexandru Visinescu for his leadership of the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963, where Romania’s elite were incarcerated.

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