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Romania: Former chief of Ceausescu's Securitate dies at 86

BUCHAREST, Romania — Tudor Postelnicu, a Romanian politician who headed the country's secret police and suppressed dissent as a top aide of former leader Nicolae Ceausescu, has died, his wife said Sunday. He was 86.

Maria Postelnicu told Digi24 her husband died Saturday, weeks after he was admitted to a military hospital in the Romanian capital with breathing problems.

Postelnicu joined the youth wing of the Communist Party in 1945 after the party was legalized and rose within its ranks. In 1978, he was appointed to head the feared Securitate secret police, a position he held until 1987. He then became interior minister until Ceausescu was overthrown during a 1989 anti-communist revolt.

Postenicu was sentenced to prison in 1990, serving four years for aggravated murder before being released on health grounds. He was incarcerated again from 1998 to 1999.

At the time of his death, he was on trial with other former officials for crimes against humanity in the 1985 death of dissident Gheorghe Ursu, who died after being beaten by interrogators and inmates on the orders of the Securitate. Ursu kept a diary where he was critical of the Ceausescu regime.

Postelnicu was on a committee that crushed a coal miners' protest in the Jiu Valley in 1977. Later, as Securitate chief, he orchestrated a campaign to discredit dissident writer Paul Goma, who fled Romania in 1977, claiming Goma was a foreign agent.

As the 1989 revolt erupted, Postelnicu ordered a crackdown on unarmed demonstrators in the southwestern city of Timisoara in which 90 died.

He is survived by his wife. No funeral plans were immediately announced.

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