Institute accuses ex-labor camp boss of 115 deaths

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - A Romanian agency has accused the former commander of a labor camp of crimes against humanity for the deaths of 115 political prisoners.

The Institute for Investigating the Crimes of Communism on Tuesday handed a file to prosecutors detailing allegations against Florian Cormos, commander of the Cernavoda labor camp.

Institute chief Andrei Muraru says there is "clear proof" that Cormos "imposed a regime of extermination with the aim of physically annihilating the opponents of the regime and those considered socially indesirable."

Under Cormos' command between December 1952 to April 1953, inmates allegedly were electrocuted and horses were ridden over them. The youngest prisoner to die was 20 and the oldest was 66. There are believed to be no survivors among those held at Cernavoda at the time.

"They were dying at a rate of one a day," Muraru said. Prisoners died of starvation, pneumonia, gangrene, a lack of medicine, disease from drinking water from the Danube and one prisoner froze to death.

Cormos, 87, denies wrongdoing. He told The Associated Press that the communists sentenced him to three years in prison after which he was appointed to a job at another prison. Muraru said Cormos was sentenced because "the cruelty became too visible and there was a danger of it being seen in the West."

Cormos is the third former commander of a communist prison or labor camp accused of causing deaths and torturing political prisoners. A fourth former prison commander identified by the institute died in November before he could be accused.

Historians say more than 500,000 political prisoners were held in the 1950s and 1960s, and more than 100,000 died.

About 3,500 former Romanian political prisoners from the 1950s and 1960s are still alive, far fewer than the 40,000 who were alive when Communism was overthrown in 1989.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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