BUCHAREST, Romania – A Romanian television engineer apparently distraught that budget cuts had reduced benefits for his autistic teenage son dived more than 20 feet (about seven meters) from a balcony onto the floor of Romania's parliament Thursday, then shouted "Freedom!" as emergency workers took him out on a stretcher.
The man's cry echoed those heard during the 1989 revolution that toppled communism — a revolt in which 1,300 people died. Romanians are commemorating the 21st anniversary of an uprising in which authorities shot unarmed protesters.
Shortly after Prime Minister Emil Boc greeted lawmakers, Adrian Sobaru hit the floor with a thud that reverberated through the chamber. No one else was injured, and Sobaru's injuries were reportedly not life-threatening.
His dramatic gesture shocked lawmakers, some of whom wept. Boc looked startled and, along with other lawmakers, rushed over to Sobaru. Speaker Mircea Geoana briefly postponed the session.
Boc called the incident a tragedy, said he was shocked, and appealed for calm in what he called "these tough times."
Doctors are treating Sobaru's jump as an attempted suicide. A video shows him standing on a balcony above the area in which lawmakers were sitting, then diving off. Photos show him wearing a white T-shirt bearing the words "You've pierced us. You've killed our children's future. But you can't take our FREEDOM."
The first line was a reference to President Traian Basescu who, upon winning the presidential race in 2009, said, "I've pierced them," using a well-known line from a Romanian movie. Calls to Sobaru's phone went unanswered. He is scheduled to have surgery for facial fractures.
Colleagues said the only thing that appeared to trouble the easygoing teetotal 41-year-old was coping with the needs of his 15-year-old autistic son. Boc's government, which relies on an International Monetary Fund loan to help pay public wages and pensions — and must meet the fund's demands to reduce the deficit — had slashed benefits by 15 percent in July.
"He was private about this but we knew it was a problem," Ilie Suciu, coordinator at the news department of public television station TVR, where Sobaru worked, told the Associated Press.
Another colleague said Sobaru had shown no abnormal behavior.
I worked with him for 20 years. He is normal person, a man of integrity," said Lucia Hossu Longin, a producer who made documentaries about the horrors of the Communist era. "What he did reminds me of when people threw themselves out of the window during interrogations in the 1950s. It is an accumulation of exasperation," she told Antena 3 television.
The session resumed without opposition lawmakers, who walked out when their request to reschedule a motion of no-confidence motion in the government was not approved. The opposition needed 236 votes to topple the government — which survived because not a single vote was cast in favor of the motion.
Romania is mired in recession and the government recently cut public sector wages by one-quarter. And the sales tax was increased from 19 to 24 percent, as the government worked to keep the deficit at 6.8 percent in 2010. The country's economy is expected to decline by 2 percent this year, after contracting by 7.1 percent in 2009. The cuts have angered many Romanians.
The public television station TVR said he jumped "for personal reasons," and said the station had given him material support for "health problems he had in his family."
Sobaru sustained face wounds, and other non life-threatening injuries, said Catalin Carstoiu, manager at the University Hospital. He will undergo surgery and psychological counseling, Carstoiu said.
Alina Wolfe Murray in Bucharest also contributed to this report.