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Moldovan political prisoner released by separatists after 15 years

Andrei Ivantoc, a political prisoner who was jailed for 15 years on charges of terrorism in Moldova's separatist state of Trans-Dniester, was released Saturday after serving his term.

Ivantoc, 46, was driven in a militia truck to the border with the rest of Moldova by Trans-Dniester authorities, freed and expelled. After he was released he tried to return to the separatist republic but was stopped by separatist authorities.

He was later forcibly bundled into a car, in which his wife Eudochia and Moldova's deputy minister for Reintegration, Ion Stavila, were also traveling. The car set off for the Moldovan capital. No statements were made and there was no immediate explanation for his action.

Some 50 people came to greet Ivantoc, carrying roses and wild flowers to this border town some 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Chisinau.

Among them was Alexandru Lesco, who was one of four people who were imprisoned on terrorist charges in Trans-Dniester in 1992. Lesco was freed in 2004 after serving a 12-year-term.

The leader of the Popular Moldovan Front, Ilie Ilascu, was released in 2001 and moved to Romania. He is now a lawmaker with the ultranationalist Greater Romania party.

The remaining prisoner, Tudor Petrov-Popa, is due to be released in two days.

The European Court for Human Rights in 2005 ordered the separatists, Moldova and Russia to free Ivantoc and Petrov-Popa, and ordered Moldova and Russia — which backs Trans-Dniester — to pay the four a total of €750,000 (US,007,700) in compensation for the deprivation of their freedom, torture and inhumane treatment while in custody.

Ivantoc was a member of the Popular Moldovan Front, a political movement that called for the reunification of Moldova with neighboring Romania, from which it was annexed in 1940. Some 1,500 people were killed during the war.Separatist authorities arrested Ivantoc in 1992, and he and the three others were sentenced on charges of committing terrorist acts against citizens of Trans-Dniester a year later.

The group's members were seen as martyrs by some in Moldova and Romania for their opposition to the separatists.Trans-Dniester is not internationally recognized.

Source: International Herald Tribune, France


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