World

Romanian ex-prison chief charged with torture, deaths of 12 fails to show for trial

FILE - This is a Tuesday, July 30, 2013  file photo of retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, 87, looks at journalists outside his home in Bucharest, Romania.  A court on Wednesday Oct. 22, 2014 froze the assets of a former Romanian prison commander  Alexandru Visinescu, charged with torturing and causing the deaths of 12 political prisoners in the 1950s and 1960s and said the government may also be liable to pay damages to alleged victims. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

FILE - This is a Tuesday, July 30, 2013 file photo of retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, 87, looks at journalists outside his home in Bucharest, Romania. A court on Wednesday Oct. 22, 2014 froze the assets of a former Romanian prison commander Alexandru Visinescu, charged with torturing and causing the deaths of 12 political prisoners in the 1950s and 1960s and said the government may also be liable to pay damages to alleged victims. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)  (The Associated Press)

A former Romanian prison commander charged with torturing and causing the deaths of 12 political prisoners in the 1950s and 1960s has failed to show up for his trial, saying he is sick.

It is the first time Romania attempts to put a communist-era prison guard on trial.

The court said it did not believe the explanation of 89-year-old Alexandru Visinescu in failing to appear Wednesday. It ordered him to appear on Nov. 5 and said it was contemplating freezing his assets to pay damages to the alleged victims' families.

Visinescu ran the prison in Ramnicu Sarat from 1956 to 1963.

About 500,000 Romanians were condemned as political prisoners in the 1950s as the nation's Communist government sought to crush all dissent.