The Unique Experience of Romania
Transcript of the closed "trial" of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, December, 1989
Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu fled from Bucharest by helicopter on December 22, but the pilot soon landed, claiming that they would be fired upon. The couple then hijacked a car but they were recognized, chased and caught by local police in Tirgoviste. Ion Iliescu announced on national television the next day that the Ceausescus had been arrested, and he said, “The time will come for their just and harsh judgment by the people” not suggesting any urgency. But on December 24, NSF leaders decided to put the two captives on trial immediately. The proceedings took place on Christmas day, and at the end of the trial Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu were executed.
Primary Source— Full Text
The following is a transcript of the closed trial of Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, as shown on Romanian and Austrian television. The English translation is by the U.S. government's Foreign Broadcast Information Service. Sections in italic type are from the Austrian television commentary.
NICOLAE CEAUSESCU: I only recognize the Grand National Assembly. I will only speak in front of it.
PROSECUTOR: In the same way he refused to hold a dialogue with the people, now he also refuses to speak with us. He always claimed to act and speak on behalf of the people, to be a beloved son of the people, but he only tyrannized the people all the time. You are faced with charges that you held really sumptuous celebrations on all holidays at your house. The details are known. These two defendants procured the most luxurious foodstuffs and clothes from abroad. They were even worse than the king, the former king of Romania. The people only received 200 grams per day, against an identity card. These two defendants have robbed the people, and not even today do they want to talk. They are cowards. We have data concerning both of them. I ask the chairman of the prosecutor's office to read the bill of indictment.
CHIEF PROSECUTOR: Esteemed chairman of the court, today we have to pass a verdict on the defendants Nicolae Ceausescu and Elena Ceausescu who have committed the following offenses: Crimes against the people. They carried out acts that are incompatible with human dignity and social thinking; they acted in a despotic and criminal way; they destroyed the people whose leaders they claimed to be. Because of the crimes they committed against the people, I plead, on behalf of the victims of these two tyrants, for the death sentence for the two defendants. The bill of indictment contains the following points: Genocide, in accordance with Article 356 of the penal code. Two: Armed attack on the people and the state power, in accordance with Article 163 of the penal code. The destruction of buildings and state institutions, undermining of the national economy, in accordance with Articles 165 and 145 of the penal code. They obstructed the normal process of the economy.
PROSECUTOR: Did you hear the charges? Have you understood them?
CEAUSESCU: I do not answer, I will only answer questions before the Grand National Assembly. I do not recognize this court. The charges are incorrect, and I will not answer a single question here.
PROSECUTOR: Note: He does not recognize the points mentioned in the bill of indictment.
CEAUSESCU: I will not sign anything.
PROSECUTOR: This situation is known. The catastrophic situation of the country is known all over the world. Every honest citizen who worked hard here until 22 December knows that we do not have medicines, that you two have killed children and other people in this way, that there is nothing to eat, no heating, no electricity.
Elena and Nicolae reject this. Another question to Ceausescu: Who ordered the bloodbath in Timisoara. Ceausescu refused to answer.
PROSECUTOR: Who gave the order to shoot in Bucharest, for instance?
CEAUSESCU: I do not answer.
PROSECUTOR: Who ordered shooting into the crowd? Tell us!
At that moment Elena says to Nicolae: Forget about them. You see, there is no use in talking to these people.
PROSECUTOR: Do you not know anything about the order to shoot?
Nicolae reacts with astonishment.
There is still shooting going on, the prosecutor says. Fanatics, whom you are paying. They are shooting at children; they are shooting arbitrarily into the apartments. Who are these fanatics? Are they the people, or are you paying them?
CEAUSESCU: I will not answer. I will not answer any question. Not a single shot was fired in Palace Square. Not a single shot. No one was shot.
PROSECUTOR: By now, there have been 34 casualties.
Elena says: Look, and that they are calling genocide.
PROSECUTOR: In all district capitals, which you grandly called municipalities, there is shooting going on. The people were slaves. The entire intelligentsia of the country ran away. No one wanted to do anything for you anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Mr. President, I would like to know something: The accused should tell us who the mercenaries are. Who pays them? And who brought them into the country?
PROSECUTOR: Yes. Accused, answer.
CEAUSESCU: I will not say anything more. I will only speak at the Grand National Assembly.
Elena keeps whispering to him. As a result, the prosecutor says: Elena has always been talkative, but otherwise she does not know much. I have observed that she is not even able to read correctly, but she calls herself an university graduate. Elena answers: The intellectuals of this country should hear you, you and your colleagues.
The prosecutor cites all academic titles she had always claimed to have.
ELENA CEAUSESCU: The intelligentsia of the country will hear what you are accusing us of.
PROSECUTOR: Nicolae Ceausescu should tell us why he does not answer our questions. What prevents him from doing so?
CEAUSESCU: I will answer any question, but only at the Grand National Assembly, before the representatives of the working class. Tell the people that I will answer all their questions. All the world should know what is going on here. I only recognize the working class and the Grand National Assembly -- no one else.
The prosecutor says: The world already knows what has happened here.
I will not answer you putschists, Ceausescu says.
PROSECUTOR: The Grand National Assembly has been dissolved.
CEAUSESCU: This is not possible at all. No one can dissolve the National Assembly.
PROSECUTOR: We now have another leading organ. The National Salvation Front is now our supreme body.
CEAUSESCU: No one recognizes that. That is why the people are fighting all over the country. This gang will be destroyed. They organized the putsch.
PROSECUTOR: The people are fighting against you, not against the new forum.
CEAUSESCU: No, the people are fighting for freedom and against the new forum. I do not recognize the court.
PROSECUTOR: Why do you think that people are fighting today? What do you think?
Ceausescu answers: As I said before, the people are fighting for their freedom and against this putsch, against this usurpation. Ceausescu claims that the putsch was organized from abroad.
CEAUSESCU: I do not recognize this court. I will not answer any more. I am now talking to you as simple citizens, and I hope that you will tell the truth. I hope that you do not also work for the foreigners and for the destruction of Romania.
The prosecutor asks the counsel for the defense to ask Ceausescu whether he knows that he is no longer president of the country, that Elena Ceausescu has also lost all her official state functions and that the government has been dissolved.
The prosecutor wants to find out on which basis the trial can be continued. It must be cleared up whether Ceausescu wants to, should, must or can answer at all. At the moment the situation is rather uncertain.
Now the counsel for the defense, who was appointed by the court, asks whether Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu know the aforementioned facts -- that he is no longer president, that she has lost all official functions. He answers: I am the president of Romania, and I am the commander in chief of the Romanian army. No one can deprive me of these functions.
PROSECUTOR: But not of our army, you are not the commander in chief of our army.
CEAUSESCU: I do not recognize you. I am talking to you as simple citizens at the least, as simple citizens, and I tell you: I am the president of Romania.
PROSECUTOR: What are you really?
CEAUSESCU: I repeat: I am the president of Romania and the commander in chief of the Romanian army. I am the president of the people. I will not speak with you provocateurs anymore, and I will not speak with the organizers of the putsch and with the mercenaries. I have nothing to do with them.
PROSECUTOR: Yes, but you are paying the mercenaries.
No, no, he says. And Elena says: It is incredible what they are inventing, incredible.
PROSECUTOR: Please, make a note: Ceausescu does not recognize the new legal structures of power of the country. He still considers himself to be the country's president and the commander in chief of the army.
Why did you ruin the country so much: Why did you export everything? Why did you make the peasants starve? The produce which the peasants grew was exported, and the peasants came from the most remote provinces to Bucharest and to the other cities in order to buy bread. They cultivated the soil in line with your orders and had nothing to eat. Why did you starve the people?
CEAUSESCU: I will not answer this question. As a simple citizen, I tell you the following: For the first time I guaranteed that every peasant received 200 kilograms of wheat per person, not per family, and that he is entitled to more. It is a lie that I made the people starve. A lie, a lie in my face. This shows how little patriotism there is, how many treasonable offenses were committed.
PROSECUTOR: You claim to have taken measures so that every peasant is entitled to 200 kilograms of wheat. Why do the peasants then buy their bread in Bucharest?
The prosecutor quotes Ceausescu, Ceausescu's program.
PROSECUTOR: We have wonderful programs. Paper is patient. However, why are your programs not implemented? You have destroyed the Romanian villages and the Romanian soil. What do you say as a citizen?
CEAUSESCU: As a citizen, as a simple citizen, I tell you the following: At no point was there such an upswing, so much construction, so much consolidation in the Romanian provinces. I guaranteed that every village has its schools, hospitals and doctors. I have done everything to create a decent and rich life for the people in the country, like in no other country in the world.
PROSECUTOR: We have always spoken of equality. We are all equal. Everybody should be paid according to his performance. Now we finally saw your villa on television, the golden plates from which you ate, the foodstuffs that you had imported, the luxurious celebrations, pictures from your luxurious celebrations.
ELENA CEAUSESCU: Incredible. We live in a normal apartment, just like every other citizen. We have ensured an apartment for every citizen through corresponding laws.
PROSECUTOR: You had palaces.
CEAUSESCU: No, we had no palaces. The palaces belong to the people.
The prosecutor agrees, but stresses that they lived in them while the people suffered.
PROSECUTOR: Children cannot even buy plain candy, and you are living in the palaces of the people.
CEAUSESCU: Is it possible that we are facing such charges?
PROSECUTOR: Let us now talk about the accounts in Switzerland, Mr. Ceausescu. What about the accounts?
ELENA CEAUSESCU: Accounts in Switzerland? Furnish proof!
CEAUSESCU: We had no account in Switzerland. Nobody has opened an account. This shows again how false the charges are. What defamation, what provocations! This was a coup d'etat.
PROSECUTOR: Well, Mr. Defendant, if you had no accounts in Switzerland, will you sign a statement confirming that the money that may be in Switzerland should be transferred to the Romanian state, the State Bank.
CEAUSESCU: We will discuss this before the Grand National Assembly. I will not say anything here. This is a vulgar provocation.
PROSECUTOR: Will you sign the statement now or not?
CEAUSESCU: No, no. I have no statement to make, and I will not sign one.
PROSECUTOR: Note the following: The defendant refuses to sign this statement. The defendant has not recognized us. He also refuses to recognize the new forum.
CEAUSESCU: I do not recognize this new forum.
PROSECUTOR: So you know the new forum. You have information about it.
Elena and Nicolae Ceasescu state: Well, you told us about it. You told us about it here.
CEAUSESCU: Nobody can change the state structures. This is not possible. Usurpers have been punished severely during the past centuries in Romania's history. Nobody has the right to abolish the Grand National Assembly.
The prosecutor turns to Elena: You have always been wiser and more ready to talk, a scientist. You were the most important aide, the number two in the cabinet, in the government.
PROSECUTOR: Did you know about the genocide in Timisoara?
ELENA CEAUSESCU: What genocide? By the way, I will not answer any more questions.
PROSECUTOR: Did you know about the genocide or did you, as a chemist, only deal with polymers? You, as a scientist, did you know about it?
Here Nicolae Ceausescu steps in and defends her.
CEAUSESCU: Her scientific papers were published abroad!
PROSECUTOR: And who wrote the papers for you, Elena?
ELENA CEAUSESCU: Such impudence! I am a member and the chairwoman of the Academy of Sciences. You cannot talk to me in such a way!
PROSECUTOR: That is to say, as a deputy prime minister you did not know about the genocide?
CEAUSESCU: She was not a deputy prime minister, but the first deputy prime minister.
PROSECUTOR: This is how you worked with the people and exercised your functions! But who gave the order to shoot? Answer this question!
ELENA CEAUSESCU: I will not answer. I told you right at the beginning that I will not answer a single question.
CEAUSESCU: You as officers should know that the government cannot give the order to shoot. But those who shot at the young people were the security men, the terrorists.
ELENA CEAUSESCU: The terrorists are from Securitate.
PROSECUTOR: The terrorists are from Securitate?
ELENA CEAUSESCU: Yes.
PROSECUTOR: And who heads Securitate? Another question . . . .
PROSECUTOR: Please, ask Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu whether they have ever had a mental illness.
CEAUSESCU: What? What should he ask us?
PROSECUTOR: Whether you have ever had a mental illness.
CEAUSESCU: What an obscene provocation.
PROSECUTOR: This would serve your defense. If you had had a mental illness and admitted this, you would not be responsible for your acts.
ELENA CEAUSESCU: How can one tell us something like this? How can one say something like this?
CEAUSESCU: I do not recognize this court.
PROSECUTOR: You have never been able to hold a dialogue with the people. You were not used to talking to the people. You held monologues and the people had to applaud, like in the rituals of tribal people. And today you are acting in the same megalomaniac way. Now we are making a last attempt. Do you want to sign this statement?
CEAUSESCU: No, we will not sign. And I also do not recognize the counsel for the defense.
PROSECUTOR: Please, make a note: Nicolae Ceausescu refuses to cooperate with the court-appointed counsel for the defense.
ELENA CEAUSESCU: We will not sign any statement. We will speak only at the National Assembly, because we have worked hard for the people all our lives. We have sacrificed all our lives to the people. And we will not betray our people here.
The court notes that the investigations have been concluded. Then follows the reading of the indictment.
PROSECUTOR: Mr. Chairman, we find the two accused guilty of having committed criminal actions according to the following articles of the penal code: Articles 162, 163, 165 and 357. Because of this indictment, I call for the death sentence and the impounding of the entire property of the two accused.
The counsel for the defense now takes the floor and instructs the Ceausescus once again that they have the right to defense and that they should accept this right.
COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENSE: Even though he -- like her -- committed insane acts, we want to defend them. We want a legal trial. Only a president who is still confirmed in his position can demand to speak at the Grand National Assembly. If he no longer has a certain function, he cannot demand anything at all. Then he is treated like a normal citizen. Since the old government has been dissolved and Ceausescu has lost his functions, he no longer has the right to be treated as the president. Please make a note that here it has been stated that all legal regulations have been observed, that this is a legal trial. Therefore, it is a mistake for the two accused to refuse to cooperate with us. This is a legal trial, and I honor them by defending them.
At the beginning, Ceausescu claimed that it is a provocation to be asked whether he was sick. He refused to undergo a psychiatric examination. However, there is a difference between real sickness that must be treated and mental insanity which leads to corresponding actions, but which is denied by the person in question. You have acted in a very irresponsible manner; you led the country to the verge of ruin and you will be convicted on the basis of the points contained in the bill of indictment. You are guilty of these offenses even if you do not want to admit it. Despite this, I ask the court to make a decision which we will be able to justify later as well. We must not allow the slightest impression of illegality to emerge. Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu should be punished in a really legal trial.
The two defendants should also know that they are entitled to a counsel for defense, even if they reject this. It should be stated once and for all that this military court is absolutely legal and that the former positions of the two Ceausescus are no longer valid. However, they will be indicted, and a sentence will be passed on the basis of the new legal system. They are not only accused of offenses committed during the past few days, but of offenses committed during the past 25 years. We have sufficient data on this period. I ask the court, as the plaintiff, to take note that proof has been furnished for all these points, that the two have committed the offenses mentioned. Finally, I would like to refer once more to the genocide, the numerous killings carried out during the past few days. Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu must be held fully responsible for this. I now ask the court to pass a verdict on the basis of the law, because everybody must receive due punishment for the offenses he has committed.
The final speech of the prosecutor follows:
PROSECUTOR: It is very difficult for us to act, to pass a verdict on people who even now do not want to admit to the criminal offenses that they have committed during 25 years and admit to the genocide, not only in Timisoara and Bucharest, but primarily also to the criminal offenses committed during the past 25 years. This demonstrates their lack of understanding. They not only deprived the people of heating, electricity, and foodstuffs, they also tyrannized the soul of the Romanian people. They not only killed children, young people and adults in Timisoara and Bucharest; they allowed Securitate members to wear military uniforms to create the impression among the people that the army is against them. They wanted to separate the people from the army. They used to fetch people from orphans' homes or from abroad whom they trained in special institutions to become murderers of their own people. You were so impertinent as to cut off oxygen lines in hospitals and to shoot people in their hospital beds. The Securitate had hidden food reserves on which Bucharest could have survived for months, the whole of Bucharest.
Whom are they talking about, Elena asks.
PROSECUTOR: So far, they have always claimed that we have built this country, we have paid our debts, but with this they bled the country to death and have hoarded enough money to ensure their escape. You need not admit your mistakes, mister. In 1947, we assumed power, but under completely different circumstances. In 1947, King Michael showed more dignity than you. And you might perhaps have achieved the understanding of the Romanian people if you had now admitted your guilt. You should have stayed in Iran where you had flown to.
In response, the two laugh, and she says: We do not stay abroad. This is our home.
PROSECUTOR: Esteemed Mr. Chairman, I have been one of those who, as a lawyer, would have liked to oppose the death sentence, because it is inhuman. But we are not talking about people. I would not call for the death sentence, but it would be incomprehensible for the Romanian people to have to go on suffering this great misery and not to have it ended by sentencing the two Ceausescus to death. The crimes against the people grew year by year. They were only busy enslaving the people and building up an apparatus of power. They were not really interested in the people.
[Picture is cut off]
After an outage of transmission of Romanian television, the speaker announces the verdict in the trial of Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu is death sentence. All their property will be impounded.
How to Cite this Source
Irina Livezeanu, "Transcript of the closed "trial" of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, December, 1989," Making the History of 1989, Item #690, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/690 (accessed October 22 2016, 9:31 pm).