Romanians back fasting bishop

Click to follow
BUCHAREST (Reuter) - Crowds flocked yesterday to hear Mass celebrated by a cleric who is on hunger strike to press for the naming of those responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 people in Romania's 1989 revolution. Reformed Church Bishop Laszlo Tokes, who helped trigger the 1989 revolt, is fasting in a church at Timisoara to back demands for the killers to be punished.

But Romania's main opposition parties, while sympathising with his goals, appealed to Bishop Tokes to end the protest for the sake of peace in the run-up to general elections on 27 September.

Bishop Tokes, 40, began his hunger strike last Wednesday in an effort to force President Ion Iliescu, the veteran Communist who took power during the revolt, to reveal the truth about December 1989 and later outbursts of political violence. It was the persecution of the bishop by the secret police in the western city of Timisoara that ignited the revolt which led to the downfall of the Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Bishop Tokes is also demanding the truth about Romanian- Hungarian ethnic clashes in 1990 as well as several violent episodes led by coalminers, which he says were stirred up by the Iliescu administration.

Yesterday, about 1,000 people streamed to the Timisoara church where Bishop Tokes is fasting. Romanians joined the Hungarian congregation in solidarity, a church spokesman said.

A Romanian court yesterday barred President Iliescu from running for a parliamentary seat on the slate of a left-wing party because he was not a party member, the independent AR Press news agency said. The ruling does not affect his presidential candidacy.