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Former Communists Confess to Participation in 1981 Bus Shooting

February 6, 1993

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ A former interior minister and seven policemen have confessed to participation in a 1981 shooting incident that has come to symbolize the brutality of the deposed Communist government.

The shooting, not publicized during the Communist period, won renewed attention after being dramatized in a Romanian film. The eight were arrested last month.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Mugurel Florescu said the eight said they were following orders from former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to indiscriminately shoot at a bus which had been hijacked by three people trying to flee the country.

″There was an order and we mowed them down,″ Florescu quoted the officers as saying.

The details of the incident are sketchy. According to recent media reports, on Aug. 22, 1981, three people stole arms from a police station in central Romania. They hijacked a bus and headed west toward the Yugoslav border.

Police blocked their way near the western city of Timisoara. After a brief standoff, an order was issued for police to open fire.

Six hostages were killed, though it is unclear whether they were shot by police or by the hijackers. It was not known how many hostages were on the bus or whether any of them also wished to flee the country.

The three hijackers were later killed while in police custody, and before ever being tried.

Those arrested last month were former Interior Minister George Homostean and seven former members of the Securitate, or secret police.

It was unclear what the charge against the officers would be. The most likely charge of complicity to grave murder carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

Also implicated in the case is Tudor Postelnicu, the head of the dreaded Securitate. He was arrested immediately after the 1989 anti-Communist revolution and jailed on other charges.

Prosecutor-General Ioan Dan was quoted in the Romania Libera daily as saying Postelnicu and Homostean ″are most to blame because they are the ones who could have stopped the killing ... so that everything could have been done according to the law.″

A spokesman for the prosecutor-general’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the case was reopened after many demands by outraged viewers of a recent Romanian film, ″Balanta″ (The Balance).

The film, a stark portrayal of the desperation of everyday life under Ceausescu, ends with a dramatic version of the bus shooting. It won international acclaim last year and was a hit in Romania.

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