'This is a Trick' Moldovan Protesters Reject Recount, Call for Police Inquiries
Opposition parties in Moldova have refused to participate in a Wednesday recount of the disputed April 5 election, calling the recount a ruse by the incumbent president Vladimir Voronin. "We will not take part in the recount," Serafim Urecheanu, leader of one of three opposition parties with seats in parliament, said at a Tuesday news conference. "This is a trick the communists want to use to distract attention from cheating with voters' lists."
Moldova's Constitutional Court has scheduled a recount for Wednesday, April 15, but the opposition parties on Tuesday reiterated their call for a new election. The April 5 vote gave the ruling Communist party 60 seats in parliament, only one shy of the number needed to ensure a Communist successor for Voronin after he steps down because of term limits.
Thousands of mainly student protesters took to the streets of Chisinau, the capital, on April 7, and the demonstrations turned violent the next day. Now the European Union is looking into charges that hundreds of protesters were illegally arrested and beaten by police.
The anti-Communist mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, circulated an open letter on Tuesday charging that 800 young protesters had simply disappeared. That number contrasts with an official tally of 200 arrests. The letter included graphic photos of a protester, 23-year-old Valeriu Boboc, who died on April 8 after a beating. His family claims he was killed by police.
Moldovan civil rights lawyers have written a letter of their own to EU officials demanding an inquiry. They claim protesters were rounded up by plainclothes police, beaten and crammed into jail cells, then denied food for up to two days. "We urge Your Excellencies to make an official visit to Moldova as soon as possible to assess the situation 'on the ground,'" reads the letter.
Moldova's Interior Ministry released the official results of Boboc's autopsy on Sunday, arguing he had suffered a broken rib but not fatal injuries from a beating. "Doctors think that the young man was poisoned by unknown substances," the statement said, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. One possible source of the poison, the government has argued, was tear gas used for crowd control. "Prosecutors are ready for an international probe in order to exclude other interpretations of this fact."
Over the weekend Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy minister, phoned President Voronin's office about a fact-finding mission to investigate the abuse claims. Solana's office says his special envoy to Moldova, Kalman Mizsei, has been gathering facts in Chisinau. But so far the EU hasn't mounted a formal inquiry.