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1989: Romania's 'first couple' executed

VIDEO : Romanians transfixed by televised trial

Deposed Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena have been shot by a firing squad after a secret military tribunal found them both guilty of crimes against the state.

They were charged and convicted of genocide and undermining the national economy among a series of other offences, officials said.

News of their death was announced to the people of Romania on national television amid reports the couple had been found smuggling large amounts of money out of the country.

A stunned reaction from the public gave way to scenes of delight and a public outpouring on the streets to celebrate.

But there was some unrest from troops who supported the former leader.

The deaths end the dictator's 24 years as communist party leader - 21 of them as Romania's president - during which he suppressed all opposition using brutal force.

The National Salvation Front is now running Romania, and America and the Soviet Union have recognised the new government.

But the White House said it was "regrettable" the trial had not been held in public.

Christmas celebrated

The new government has pledged democracy will replace the tyranny of Ceausescu's rule and promised to allow free speech, free thought and free enterprise in Romania.

Party leaders called on the West to aid and support its new reform programme.

The executions come after 10 tumultuous days of violence and an upsurge of mass protests against Ceausescu's regime.

Demonstrations began in the western city of Timisoara against the harassment of a dissident ethnic-Hungarian priest, Laszlo Tokes.

It led to protests about a lack of basic supplies such as bread but the backlash from Ceausescu's armed forces led to accusations many people were massacred.

Demonstrators stormed Ceausescu's palace and he and his wife tried to flee Bucharest but they were captured by military forces who had turned against them.

In Context
Two days after the death of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, video pictures of their summary trial and execution were shown on television in Romania and around the world.

The images of their dead bodies, riddled with bullets, were broadcast and much of the unrest which continued after their deaths subsided.

The final figure on the numbers of those who died during the demonstrations in December 1989 was placed as being closer to 100 than the thousands predicted.

Elections were held in Romania in 1990 bringing the National Salvation Front officially to power after it abolished the one party system.


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