World

Ex-communist prison chief on trial in Romania for torture, deaths of 12 political prisoners

  • Media surrounds retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat communist prison from 1956 to 1963 as he leaves a court in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, after attending the first hearing of a trial in which he is charged with crimes against humanity. Visinescu, who turns 89 this week, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners’ deaths and denied wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    Media surrounds retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat communist prison from 1956 to 1963 as he leaves a court in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, after attending the first hearing of a trial in which he is charged with crimes against humanity. Visinescu, who turns 89 this week, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners’ deaths and denied wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • Media surrounds retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat communist prison from 1956 to 1963 as he leaves a court in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, after attending the first hearing of a trial in which he is charged with crimes against humanity. Visinescu, who turns 89 this week, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners’ deaths and denied wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    Media surrounds retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat communist prison from 1956 to 1963 as he leaves a court in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, after attending the first hearing of a trial in which he is charged with crimes against humanity. Visinescu, who turns 89 this week, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners’ deaths and denied wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • Retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat communist prison from 1956 to 1963 as he leaves a court in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, after attending the first hearing of a trial in which he is charged with crimes against humanity. Visinescu, who turns 89 this week, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners’ deaths and denied wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    Retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat communist prison from 1956 to 1963 as he leaves a court in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, after attending the first hearing of a trial in which he is charged with crimes against humanity. Visinescu, who turns 89 this week, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners’ deaths and denied wrongdoing. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

A former Romanian prison commander has appeared in court to face charges of torture and causing the deaths of 12 political prisoners in the nation's first trial of a commander of a communist lockup.

Alexandru Visinescu, who ran the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963 and is charged with crimes against humanity, was in court but did not take the stand Wednesday.

Visinescu, 88, told The Associated Press earlier that the court would have to prove his actions led to prisoners' deaths.

The widow of one former political prisoner asked the court for 100,000 euros ($132,000) in moral and financial damages.

About 500,000 Romanians were condemned as political prisoners in the 1950s as the nation's Communist government sought to crush all dissent. The next court session is on Oct. 22.