Page last updated at 12:53 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

17 Dec: Romania erupts


Violence sweeps Romania after bloody crackdown on protesters


On 17 December, members of Romania's security forces opened fire on protesters in the town of Timisoara, as they ran amok in protest at the attempted arrest of a respected local priest.

Laszlo Tokes, a pastor in the Reformed Church who had campaigned for human rights and better treatment for Romania's Hungarian minority, had been about to be exiled to a remote village.

However, hundreds of people formed a protective ring around his church. Attempts by police to disperse them with water cannon only caused others to join their ranks and the protest spread.

Eyewitnesses talked of 10,000 people rampaging through the streets of the city ripping down portraits of President Nicolae Ceausescu and smashing cars and shops.

Ceausescu decided that this challenge to his authority had to be crushed.

Under his direct orders, security forces were instructed to kill all protesters. Dozens were killed as tanks were deployed in the city and troops opened fire on civilians.

As news leaked out of the repression, Romania closed its borders. A state of emergency was declared in the Timis region and tanks were reported on the streets of the capital, Bucharest.

Dozens were killed during several days of violence. As news circulated of the atrocities, the revolution spread to Bucharest.

Ceausescu's 24-year authoritarian rule was about to come to a bloody and swift conclusion.

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