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Romanian gov't declassifies documents about communist jails, to aid trials of ex-commanders

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania's government has declassified secret documents relating to prisons where hundreds of thousands of opponents of the former communist regime were incarcerated.

The government said Wednesday it was declassifying documents from 1957 to 1962 which were "necessary for solving ongoing trials," and in the interest of "free access to information of public interest."

Alexandru Visinescu is on trial accused of crimes against humanity for the deaths of 12 prisoners at Ramnicu Sarat, where he was commander from 1956 to 1963.

Ion Ficior faces the same charges for the deaths of 103 people at Periprava labor camp, which he ran from 1958 to 1963. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Octav Bjoza, head the Association of Former Detainees said opening the records would help the younger generation understand the country's past.

However, he said he regretted it had not been done earlier when more of the former communist officials were alive.

"These criminals died peacefully in their beds, while prisoners died in humiliation without getting justice," Bjoza told The Associated Press.

About 500,000 Romanians were held as political prisoners in the 1950s and early '60s as the government sought to crush dissent.

Historians say one-fifth of those prison inmates died due to insufficient food and medicine, beatings and lack of heat in their cells. The Communist regime led by Nicolae Ceausescu collapsed in 1989.

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