Judge Who Sentenced Ceausescus to Death Kills Himself
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ The head of the military tribunal that condemned Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife to death has committed suicide, officials said today.
Maj. Gen. Gica Popa shot himself in the head Thursday at his office in the Ministry of Justice, Justice Minister Teofil Pop told a news conference.
Popa was rushed to the Bucharest military hospital, where he died two hours later with his wife and daughter by his side, Pop said. The military officer left a suicide note that asked for forgiveness, but did not explain the motive for his act.
Pop said the suicide was the result of a ″very grave depression″ and said ″it is possible″ that it was related to the Ceausescu trial.
A source close to the family, however, said that Popa had been troubled by anonymous death threats, apparently from Ceausescu loyalists, for the past two months.
Pop said that he had recently asked Popa if he had been threatened after the trial, and the major-general said no.
The justice minister also confirmed that Popa’s voice was the one heard on the video-recording of the Dec. 25 trial of Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, which was broadcast repeatedly on Romanian and international television.
The angry voice was heard interrogating the pair and then announcing that they had been sentenced to death for crimes against the Romanian people. The couple was then executed.
The identity of the person was not made public earlier ″to protect the judges while there were still terrorists around,″ Pop said. He used the word ″terrorists″ to refer to members of Ceausescu’s secret police force, who fought revolutionary forces for about a week after the dictator was toppled Dec. 22.
Pop said Popa, who was the head of the Military Territorial Tribunal, ″had extraordinary prestige and was one of our best judges.″
The prosecutor-general’s office and police were investigating Popa’s death, officials said.
News of the suicide coincided with the start of a trial in Timisoara of 21 former secret police officers charged in connection with scores of deaths in that city, where the revolution began.
It was the first trial of ex-officials accused of trying to crush the revolution before it spread across the country.