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The Mărieș Affair: For the “December Angels”

Teodor Mărieș, president of the “21 Decembrie” Association, decided on Friday, October 16, 2009, to end his hunger strike, after 74 days of extreme protest. Involved in the December 1989 Revolution trial, as a complaining victim, Mărieș has petitioned the Romanian justice system and later the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg for access to the evidence in the file, even to—or particularly to—classified evidence.

Romanian prosecutors initially put forth their non-disclosure obligation, but as the ECHR ruled on October 9 that Teodor Mărieș must have access to trial data, the Prosecutor’s Office chose to abide by this ruling. The National Defence Ministry and the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives immediately conformed, and sent the documents to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Some of them have already reached Mărieș and were posted on the home page of the “21 Decembrie” Association, at http://www.asociatia21decembrie.ro. The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and the Special Telecoms Service, two of the institutions that hold key evidence in the Revolution trial, had declined to do the same by October 17, 2009.
True enough, the ECHR ruling had only been passed a short while before; but it has already been 20 years since Ceausescu’s Securitate turned into the Romanian Intelligence Service. Mărieș expects the SRI to continue to deny him access to documents, on grounds that the information is classified. “21 Decembrie” Association has already sent a petition to SRI, signed by an impressive number of civil organisations, and requesting that prosecutors be given access to the “Dâmbovița” file, concerning the protests in the University Square and the miners’ riots of 1990.
It is a fact that many documents that were vital to finding out the truth on the Revolution and miners’ riots were destroyed, either in December 1989, or later (Berevoiești is one example). The SRI has thus come to be perceived as a key tool in concealing the truth about the Revolution and miners’ riots, as the institution that helped preserve the pact between the true beneficiaries of the Revolution (politicians and future business people). Mărieș strongly believes that the disclosure of the SRI documents may seriously upset the Romanian society, even 20 years after the fact, which seems plausible given the evident reluctance of SRI as to his efforts. These and other data may suggest that what drives Teodor Mărieș is a personal goal or a group-related one (the group of revolution fighters).
Moreover, in what he does the president of the ”21 Decembrie” Association is pushing the boundaries and the existing legal frameworks (including the ECHR ruling, which does not explicitly confirm his wish to have access to the Revolution file as a whole, but not only to relevant evidence). But this makes Mărieș and his endeavour hard to understand. This may be why, except for a few columnists who wrote about the case, the mass-media have largely ignored the topic, although it was both important and sensational. After the ECHR ruling, the affair might be given due attention by the media. Because what seems to have saved Mărieș and to have shed the right light on his case is the European Court ruling, passed by president of Section III, Josep Casadevall. Not only did ECHR rule in favour of Mărieș, at least in procedural terms, but it did so in the spirit of human rights, and not only in spirit: Josep Casadevall personally asked Teodor Mărieș to give up hunger strike. In actual fact, the Mărieș affair is neither personal nor group-related. It concerns the nation as a whole. What he does should be viewed not in terms of compliance with the law, but rather as a desperate message. Mărieș is the one who, as president of an association that closely monitors investigations in the Revolution trial, is quite familiar with the topic and is willing to get involved (to the point of heroism) in asking for fair trial and in warning us on the danger of being once again deceived.
President Traian Băsescu accurately defined at least part of the problem when he said, in a TV show, that the efforts made by Teodor Mărieș are not accidental and that “apparently many of the offences in the file are approaching prescription.” An unquestionable domestic cause of the deepening social effects of the economic crisis is the lack of a strategy and action to build a strong economy. This is why the loan agreement with the IMF may be seen as a bill paid by Romanians for the poor management and corruption of their leaders of the past 20 years. We have been deceived, and it’s not over.
With some of the evidence in the Revolution trial consisting of classified documents, we will not be able to find out the truth about the 1989 Revolution, unless the justice system has the will to do it. Twenty years have passed, and no one has been sentenced for the about 1600 killings during the Revolution, so we can safely assume that this will does not exist. Therefore, when Teodor Mărieș asks for access not only to relevant documents for his case, but to the entire file, and when he says he will make all these documents public on the Internet, he does a fair and objective thing, although he acts outside the law. (He does not go completely against the law, though. There are serious doubts as to whether information regarding the events of 1989 can be classified under a law endorsed in 2002.
The confidentiality requested by prosecutors as regards the evidence in the file is also rather odd.) What Mărieș tries to do is to make public the deeds of some of the participants in the Revolution, more precisely of the Revolution leaders and the heads of public institutions at the time, now that the prescription deadline is drawing near, and the guilty ones might get away with moral punishment alone. So we are running a dual risk: of never finding out the truth and of never doing justice. And the consequence is that, once more, we will be deceived. Not to mention the direct link between the corruption of the past 20 years and the failure to settle the Revolution trial.
And still, there are reasons for optimism. Due to the ECHR ruling and to the subsequent decisions of Romanian institutions (hopefully all of them will eventually conform!), “21 Decembrie” Association will receive documents from the file. Things are beginning to move, first of all thanks to Teodor Mărieș. He seems optimistic as well, and enjoys his victory, which is real. As he confessed to one of his friends, “We have proved to the December 1989 angels that we care about their souls, that their sacrifice in that blood-spattered December was not in vain, and never forgotten.”

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