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Ion Ficior, 90, Convicted in Romania Labor Camp Crimes, Is Dead

Category: Europe,World

Ion Ficior, who was imprisoned for the deaths of 103 political inmates while in charge of a Communist-era labor camp in Romania, died on Wednesday. He was 90.

Bianca Filote, a spokeswoman for the government’s Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, confirmed the death, at Jilava prison hospital outside Bucharest, the capital.

The institute began to pursue Mr. Ficior and other former prison guards in 2013, handing over evidence to prosecutors.

Since March 2017 Mr. Ficior had been serving a 20-year sentence for crimes against humanity. He denied wrongdoing and said he had simply been following orders.

He was commander of a labor camp in the remote Danube Delta village of Periprava, near the Black Sea, from 1958 to 1963, a period of iron-hard Communist rule across Eastern Europe. The camp held up to 2,000 prisoners.

During his trial, former detainees accused him of beatings, depriving them of food and medicine, overworking them, refusing to heat their cells and forcing them to drink dirty water from the Danube, leading to widespread dysentery.

“It was an extermination camp,” Andrei Muraru, then head of the institute, said of the Periprava prison in a hearing before the country’s general prosecutor in 2013. “It was a repressive, excessive, inhuman and discretionary regime.”

The youngest person to die was 19 and the oldest 71, Mr. Muraru said, adding that he had asked prosecutors to place a travel ban on Mr. Ficior because his son lived in the United States.

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

Ion Iosif Ficior was born on April 4, 1928, into a family of Baptists in the commune of Cucerda, in Mures County, in Romania, according to online biographies. He was certified as an electrician and joined the Comumunist Party after World War II. He married Maria Calutu, whose father was a Baptist pastor.

After attending military training schools he became an investigator and bureau chief in the Romanian army’s counterintelligence services. He was later transferred to the general directorate of prisons and labor camps and held posts at a number of camps before taking over at Periprava.

In an interview with The A.P. in June 2013, an unrepentant Mr. Ficior insisted that only three or four people had died under his command. He contended that his former prisoners were militiamen, known as Legionnaires, who had supported Nazi Germany during World War II and deserved to be incarcerated.

The institute said it had spoken to 21 former prisoners to build its case against Mr. Ficior.

“Ficior beat us every day with a wooden stick,” one former prisoner, Ianos Mokar, told The A.P., adding that Mr. Ficior had terrorized inmates by “jumping over us on his white mare.”

Institute investigators, digging for human remains in Periprava, found skeletons of former prisoners who appeared to have been dumped naked into mass unmarked graves.

The New York Times contributed reporting.


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