June 13, 2017 / 3:31 PM / a month ago

Romanian prosecutors send former president to trial over 1990 riots

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FILE PHOTO: Petre Roman waves to supporters during a pre-election rally in Bucharest on November 22, 2000. OP/FMS

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's military prosecutors sent former president Ion Iliescu and former prime minister Petre Roman to trial on Tuesday on charges of crimes against humanity over violent clashes in Bucharest in 1990.

Prosecutors said Iliescu, Roman and several other officials at the time used police as well as miners and other workers to quash peaceful protests in Bucharest's iconic University Square, resulting in the death of four people.

Another 1,388 people were injured and 1,250 protesters were illegally detained during the clashes, which took place exactly 27 years ago on June 13-15.

The protests against Iliescu's rise to power after the 1989 fall of communism broke out in April, one month before the country's first democratic election, which he won.

They carried on peacefully until June, when Iliescu summoned thousands of miners and workers from counties across the country to Bucharest to help police end what he and other officials called a fascist coup attempt.

"State authorities ... decided to trigger a violent attack against University Square protesters," prosecutors said in a statement.

"The repression ... continued in a systematic attack together with miners and workers from several counties which had become a force parallel to the recognized legal ones."

Iliescu, now 87, has repeatedly denied accusations that he engineered the violence, which Western observers said had hampered Romania's transition to a market economy and deterred foreign investment for years.

Miners descended repeatedly on the capital in the first post-communist decade and were once a strong political force.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie, editing by Ed Osmond

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