Nicolae Plesita, 80
Nicolae Plesita, 80; Ruthless Chief of Romania's Secret Police
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Gen. Nicolae Plesita, 80, a die-hard communist and ruthless chief of the Securitate secret police who arranged shelter in Romania for terrorist Carlos the Jackal and was tried for the bombing of Radio Free Europe, died Sept. 28 in Bucharest in a Romanian intelligence service hospital.
He was being treated for illnesses including diabetes, the Agerpres and Mediafax news agencies reported, citing family members.
Gen. Plesita commanded the Securitate's foreign intelligence service from 1980 to 1984. He gained notoriety for his contacts with Venezuelan-born terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal.
Ramirez was hired by the Securitate on the orders of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to assassinate Romanian dissidents in France and bomb the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich in 1981. Nine people were injured in the attack on the radio station, which broadcast into communist Eastern Europe.
In 1998, Gen. Plesita told court prosecutors that Ceausescu had ordered him to find temporary shelter for Ramirez in Romania after the bombing. Ceausescu sold arms and explosives to Ramirez and enabled him to produce counterfeit passports and driver's licenses, Romanian media reported.
After the 1989 anti-communist revolt, Gen. Plesita faced a military trial in Romania for being an accomplice in the Radio Free Europe attack. The trial was interrupted several times, and he was found not guilty this year.
In post-communist Romania, Gen. Plesita continued to attract attention with his revelations from the communist period and showed no remorse for having crushed dissent.
Several times, he described how he beat up dissident writer Paul Goma and dragged him around Securitate cells by his beard. In 1982, when Gen. Plesita was head of the Securitate's foreign intelligence service, a Securitate agent tried to poison Goma, who was in exile in France, but the attempt failed.
Gen. Plesita's public appearances and relaxed manner were accepted in post-communist Romania partly because many former high-ranking Securitate officers still have key positions in politics and business.
After communism ended, Gen. Plesita continued to live in a villa in Bucharest reportedly given to him by Ceausescu. Last year, he had one of the highest state pensions in Romania, $2,250 a month -- more than six times the average.
Born April 16, 1929, Gen. Plesita was recruited to the Securitate as a teenager and rose in the ranks after he helped eradicate the last vestiges of anti-communist resistance in the Transylvanian mountains in the late 1950s. In 1977, he helped stifle striking coal miners in the Jiu Valley whose unrest posed a threat to Ceausescu. It was after this that he was promoted to head foreign intelligence.