BUCHAREST, Romania – Gabriel Tepelea, an anti-communist dissident who spent six years in gulags and later played a key role in Romanian political life when communism collapsed, has died, a former party colleague said. He was 95.
Tanase Tavala said Tepelea, who also was a prolific author on the subjects of language and literature, died at home in Bucharest on Thursday, but provided no further details. Romanian President Traian Basescu and former President Emil Constantinescu sent their condolences Friday.
"Romania has lost another moral and intellectual compass who marked the rebirth of the traditional political elite after the collapse of communism," Constantinescu said.
Born in the western city of Oradea in 1916, Tepelea joined the center-right Peasant Party in 1933, and fought for democracy and the rights of farmers, particularly in Transylvania. He actively opposed the Hungarian takeover of northwest Transylvania during World War II.
A staunch opponent of the pro-Moscow communists who came to power in 1945, he was arrested, his assets were confiscated and he was sentenced to prison in 1949 along with tens of thousands who were condemned in political trials
He was released in 1955, whereupon he was forced to perform unskilled labor. He later pursued a career in education and became the dean of the Philology Faculty in the western city of Timisoara in the early 1970s, specializing in Romanian and French. He wrote more than 20 books on literature and language.
He was a lawmaker for the Peasant Party for 10 years until 2000, also serving as deputy leader of the party.
He was awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, in 2001, and received Romania's National Order for Faithful Service in 2000.
No funeral plans were immediately available and there was no word about surviving family members.