Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

25 Dec: Ceausescu executed


Firing squad ends Romanian leader's hardline rule


On Christmas Day, 25 December, the Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed by a three-man firing squad, after a trial at a military base lasting two hours.

Though some details remain disputed, this is how their final days unfolded.

A day after ordering security forces to use deadly force against protesters in the western city of Timisoara, Ceausescu felt confident enough to leave for an official visit to Iran. But when he returned on 20 December, he found Romania in chaos.

Tanks were on the streets of Bucharest, the borders were closed and international condemnation of the bloodshed was near universal.

The next day Ceausescu addressed a vast crowd in Bucharest's central Palace Square, assembled to hear him denounce the "fascists and foreigners" leading the revolution.

But instead of the cheers he'd expected, he was booed and jeered. His stunned reaction to the taunts was captured on television before the transmission was suddenly halted.

Mass protests followed and at night security forces loyal to the Ceausescus began shooting at civilians and the army, who by now were on the side of the people.

Ceausescu and his wife fled the capital by helicopter, only to be picked up by the army some 50 miles north-west of the city. They were held for three days, as violence surged through the city and spread to other areas of the country.

As the situation became critical, the Council of National Salvation, a provisional government made up of former senior communist officials, decided that Ceausescu should be put on trial and executed.

Shortly after, the fighting ended. The revolution was over.

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