A hearing on the appeal of a 90-year-old communist-era prison guard sentenced to 20 years for crimes against humanity has been quickly adjourned because he did not have a lawyer.

Alexandru Visinescu, commander of the Ramnicu Sarat prison from 1956 to 1963, was convicted, in the first such trial in Romania, for deaths of 12 political prisoners during his command.

The lockup housed the intellectual, political and military prewar elite. Visinescu says he was merely following orders.

He arrived alone Wednesday at the High Court for Cassation and Justice. He was unshaven, appeared frail and declined to speak to reporters. He was sentenced in July but remains free pending his appeal.

The next hearing will be on Nov. 25.