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Journalists Accused of Defaming President

September 18, 1995

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Two journalists who reported that President Ion Iliescu once worked for the Soviet KGB went on trial Monday for offending the Romanian leader.

The trial illustrates the uneasy relationship between journalists and the government since the 1989 overthrow of communism.

Journalist Tana Ardeleanu and the editor of the Ziua daily, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, are charged with ``offenses against authorities,″ and could be sentenced to up to three years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors accuse the two of making up the story and lying about witnesses.

``I did not intend to defame Iliescu,″ Stanescu said during a 3 1/2-hour hearing. ``I wrote what I did in the interest of public opinion.″

Iliescu was once a communist minister, but fell out of favor with dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. When Ceausescu was overthrown in December 1989, Iliescu was part of the National Salvation Front that replaced him. Since then, he has been elected president twice.

Stanescu also is charged in connection with an article in which he accused Iliescu of being an ``assassin.″ He told the court he considered the president the ``moral author″ of the bloodshed during the 1989 revolt, in which more than 1,000 people died.

Prosecutors claimed Ardeleanu never went to Moscow, where she says she interviewed Ilisecu’s former professor. The claim that Iliescu worked for the KGB was based on that interview.

She provided the court with photocopies of airline tickets to and from Moscow, and said had had a subsequent meeting with the professor at an undisclosed location.

Judge Gabriela Marincas of the Bucharest municipal court adjourned the case until next month.

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