World

Communist-era prison commander sentenced to 20 years in prison, a 1st in Romania

  • FILE - In this Tuesday July 30, 2013 file photo retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, 87, looks at journalists as he enters his home in Bucharest, Romania. A court set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander on Friday convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania. The Appeals Court on Friday, July 24, 2015 sentenced the 89-year-old Visinescu to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

    FILE - In this Tuesday July 30, 2013 file photo retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu, 87, looks at journalists as he enters his home in Bucharest, Romania. A court set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander on Friday convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania. The Appeals Court on Friday, July 24, 2015 sentenced the 89-year-old Visinescu to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In a file picture taken on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, 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. A court set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander on Friday convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania. The Appeals Court on Friday, July 24, 2015 sentenced the 89-year-old Alexandru Visinescu to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

    FILE - In a file picture taken on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, 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. A court set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander on Friday convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania. The Appeals Court on Friday, July 24, 2015 sentenced the 89-year-old Alexandru Visinescu to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this July 11, 2014, file photo, a photograph showing retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu is displayed at his home in Bucharest, Romania. A court set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander on Friday convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania. The Appeals Court on Friday, July 24, 2015 sentenced the 89-year-old Alexandru Visinescu to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

    FILE - In this July 11, 2014, file photo, a photograph showing retired Lt. Col. Alexandru Visinescu is displayed at his home in Bucharest, Romania. A court set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander on Friday convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania. The Appeals Court on Friday, July 24, 2015 sentenced the 89-year-old Alexandru Visinescu to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)  (The Associated Press)

A court has set a 20-year sentence for a communist-era prison commander convicted of crimes against humanity in the deaths of 12 inmates, in the first such trial in Romania.

The Appeals Court sentenced the 89-year-old Alexandru Visinescu on Friday to 20 years for deaths which happened under his command. He was not in court to hear the ruling which is not final. He says he was merely following orders.

From 1956 to 1963, Visinescu ran Ramnicu Sarat, a prison in eastern Romania where intellectuals and political and military officials were tortured and sometimes killed.

About 500,000 Romanians were held as political prisoners in the 1950s and early '60s.

Visinescu is the first prison commander from that time to stand trial, which began in September.