05BUCHAREST1372 / 2005-06-17 12:14:00
Embassy Bucharest
                C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 001372 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/NCE WILLIAM SILKWORTH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/17/2015 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, KDEM, SOCI, RO, biographic information, History, political assessment 
SUBJECT: ROMANIA CONFRONTS ITS PAST 15 YEARS AFTER MINERS' 
RAMPAGE; EX-PRESIDENT ILIESCU FACES INDICTMENT 
 
REF: A. A) O4 BUCHAREST 3478 
 
     B. B) BUCHAREST 1348 
 
Classified By: POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF ROBERT GILCHRIST FOR REASONS 1.4 
 B AND D 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  Events of recent days have focused renewed 
attention on violence caused by rioting miners in the 1990's 
that slowed Romanian democratic development and Romanian 
progress toward market reform .  As Romanians commemorated 
the 15th anniversary of the riots, a court ordered the 
miners' former leader released from jail.  Meanwhile, the 
press revealed that ex-President Ion Iliescu is under 
criminal investigation for inciting the riots as well as for 
his alleged role in violence during Romania's 1989 
revolution. Few Romanians believe the former executive will 
ever serve time. However, many hope there will now be a true 
accounting of the country's early post-communist history, 
with culpability for the violence and extra-constitutional 
measures clearly attributed to those responsible.  End 
Summary. 
 
2.  (SBU) On June 14, Romanians solemnly commemorated the 
anniversary of the notorious 1990 miner's riots, which 
brought terror and bloodshed to the capital in the months 
after Romania's anti-communist revolution.  Victims of the 
riots -- as well as family members of those who were killed 
-- assembled peacefully in Bucharest's central University 
Square holding signs calling for justice and prosecution of 
those responsible.  For years, they have assembled on this 
anniversary and have pressed unsuccessfully for the truth to 
be officially revealed.  Recent events, however, indicate 
there may finally be progress. 
 
ILIESCU IN THE SPOTLIGHT 
------------------------ 
3.  (C) Following weeks of speculation, former President Ion 
Iliescu's lawyer announced June 9 that Iliescu is under 
criminal investigation, with charges pending for his alleged 
role in the riots. This was confirmed in the press by the 
Public Prosecutor.  Iliescu has long been the central focus 
of accusations that the riots were sponsored, incited, and 
organized by top officials.  The charges reportedly pending 
against him, but still subject to final approval, include 
genocide, undermining state authority, undermining the 
national economy, inhuman treatment, war propaganda, abusive 
investigation and illegal arrest. Separately, Embassy 
contacts have said that Iliescu is also under investigation 
for his alleged role in violence surrounding the December 
1989 revolution. 
 
4.  (SBU) Iliescu initially downplayed the criminal 
investigation and pending charges related to the riots, 
asserting that he had merely been named as a "witness" to the 
events.  Shortly thereafter, however, he dismissed his lawyer 
for revealing the initial news to the press and hired 
criminal defense lawyer and Social Democratic Party (PSD) 
Senator Antonie Iorgovan to lead his legal team.  Iorgovan -- 
who has offered to take on the case pro-bono -- is known as 
one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the country. 
According to Embassy contacts and press reports, charges 
related to the riots are also pending against other prominent 
political figures, including former Prime Minister Petre 
Roman, former Deputy Prime Minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, 
and current Transportation Minister Gheorghe Dobre.  The 
latter, who was a mid-level transportation official at the 
time, allegedly facilitated the movement of the miners' 
trains into Bucharest. 
 
5.  (C) Lawyer Iorgovan has publicly declared that "there is 
a clear risk" Iliescu could spend the rest of his life in 
prison.  However, many Romanians remain skeptical that 
Iliescu will ever serve time. Given the complexity of the 
case and the staleness of the evidence, the trial could take 
years.  Iliescu's advanced age and recently-manifested heart 
condition could also pose impediments.  Additionally, the PSD 
and Iliescu personally continue to exercise continued 
influence -- if not outright control -- of much of the court 
system at multiple levels.  More fundamentally, legal experts 
point out that the case will be difficult to prosecute given 
that Iliescu was acting at the time as head of state and was 
obligated to ensure security and preserve institutions.  The 
press and some Embassy contacts have indicated the PSD is 
already planning to take every step necessary to protect 
Iliescu.  There is some speculation that the current PSD 
leadership will use this as a tradeoff to prevent Iliescu 
from forming a new party following his unsuccessful bid for 
the PSD presidency in April. (Ref B) 
 
RIOT LEADER RELEASED FROM PRISON 
-------------------------------- 
6.  (SBU) Coincidentally, a local court in Craiova June 14 
ordered the release from prison of Miron Cozma, former 
miners' union chief and the most visible instigator of the 
riots.  Cozma walked free the same day.  In December 2004, 
Iliescu pardoned Cozma in one of the most controversial moves 
of his presidency (ref a).  In response to widespread public 
outrage at the time, Iliescu quickly "revoked" the pardon and 
Cozma was then put back in jail after only two days.  The 
Craiova court determined that Iliescu had no legal basis for 
revoking the pardon. 
 
7.  (SBU) As in December, Cozma's release sparked public 
outrage, with local television stations replaying video 
footage of the 1990 violence and newspaper headlines 
expressing alarm that "a killer had been freed."  The 
Association of Miners, Riot Victims (AVM) called Cozma a 
"terrorist" and asked the General Prosecutor to reverse the 
decision. Nonetheless, despite these strong emotions, most 
analysts acknowledged that the Craiova court acted correctly 
and cast the blame on Iliescu for initially issuing the 
pardon.  Minister of Justice Monica Macovei called the 
Craiova court decision "predicable," as there are no 
constitutional grounds for revoking a presidential pardon. 
Cozma reportedly "thanked" Macovei for his release.  She 
replied publicly that the Ministry had played no part in the 
decision and the Cozma could only thank Iliescu.  Since his 
release, Cozma has vowed to establish his own political party 
and fingered Iliescu as the primary culprit for the violence. 
 
BACKGROUND: THE MINERS' BLOODY RAMPAGE 
-------------------------------------- 
8.  (C) Few events in post-communist Romania evoke as much 
emotion as the deadly violence perpetrated by the miners in 
the 1990's.  Coming largely from the state-owned mines in the 
coal-rich southwest of the country, the miners faithfully 
supported Iliescu in exchange for his assurances of their job 
security and continued high salaries.  Iliescu relied on 
their electoral support and -- at key junctures -- their 
willingness to use intimidation and violence in support of 
his objectives.  In short, in the words of one Embassy 
contact, for a period of several years Iliescu used the burly 
and club wielding miners as his "personal shock troops." 
 
9.  (SBU) In 1990, the miners rampaged through Bucharest 
three times.  The worst was the third riot, in June. Hundreds 
of students, intellectuals, and other anti-communists were 
encamped in central Bucharest to call for meaningful 
democratic reform and the ouster of the former communist 
nomenclatura whom they believed had derailed the revolution. 
On June 13, Iliescu and his government used police and other 
measures to try to dissipate the protesters, sparking 
violence and disorder throughout the city.  Iliescu then 
called for "responsible forces" (i.e., the miners) to "help" 
authorities restore order. On June 14, thousands of miners -- 
abetted by government officials at multiple levels -- boarded 
trains for central Bucharest.  The ensuing violence was 
unprecedented in the capital, resulting in reportedly dozens 
of dead and hundreds wounded. On June 15, Iliescu thanked the 
miners for their actions and their &attitude of high civic 
spirit.8  The miners returned to Bucharest in September 1991 
in response to government plans to cut mining jobs.  After a 
repeat of earlier violence, then Prime Minister Petre Roman 
was forced to resign.  In 1999, the miners twice attempted to 
return to Bucharest but were impeded by security forces under 
orders from the then center-right government of former 
President Emil Constantinescu. 
 
10.  (SBU) As president of the largest miners' union, Miron 
Cozma was the most visible and vocal figure in the movement 
and -- in the eyes of many -- held responsibility for much of 
the violence.  In 1999, he was sentenced to eighteen years in 
prison for events related to the 1991 riot.  Cozma is 
currently appealing another conviction for his role in 
instigating unrest in January 1999.  The appellate court's 
decision is expected as early as next week, leaving open the 
possibility that Cozma could return prison. 
 
11.  (C) Comment: Although few believe there will ever be 
prosecutions, the pending charges against Iliescu and others 
offer hope that an accurate history of the miners' riots may 
finally come to light.  Many Romanians see this -- as well as 
a true accounting of the 1989 revolution -- as a central 
mandate for President Traian Basescu and his center-right 
government. Indeed, it is no coincidence that cheering crowds 
on December 12 spontaneously convened at University Square to 
celebrate Basescu's presidential victory.  They viewed this 
location as an embodiment of the ideals of the 1989 
revolution and the anti-communist protesters beaten there by 
miners in 1990.  And they viewed Basescu as the political 
figure most capable of bringing closure to events that still 
haunt post-communist Romania's political psyche. 
 
12.  (C) Comment continued:  Also in the past week, several 
key center-right Members of Parliament introduced a bill that 
would forbid former communist nomenclatura from holding 
public office for ten years.  Embassy contacts have expressed 
pessimism the measure will pass in its current form. 
Nonetheless, it demonstrates a more general commitment by the 
center-right to purge the vestiges of communism from official 
life.  End Comment. 
 
13.  (U) Amembassy Bucharest's reporting telegrams are 
available on the Bucharest SIPRNET Website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/bucharest. 
DELARE 

            
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