Romanian prosecutors say they are seeking up to 25 years in prison for a communist-era prison commander charged in the deaths of 12 political prisoners decades ago.

With their request Tuesday prosecutors were effectively asking for a life sentence for the 89-year old Alexandru Visinescu.

From 1956 to 1963 Visinescu ran Ramnicu Sarat, a prison in eastern Romania where political and military officials who had run afoul of the communist authorities were tortured and sometimes killed. He has been charged with crimes against humanity and is Romania's first communist-era prison chief to face trial.

He and his lawyer have argued to the court that he was merely obeying rules of the time and should not be judged by current laws for events that took place half a century ago.