Scientists in Romania are hoping that DNA tests can confirm the identities of remains long believed to be that of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. The couple were executed by firing squad on Christmas Day 21 years ago, and a hasty burial cast doubt on their final resting place. Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Iona Avadani, Director of the center for independent journalist in Bucharest.
MARCO WERMAN: The remains of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were dug up today. Or maybe they were the remains of some other couple. The Ceausescus were summarily tried and executed 21 years ago. They were executed by firing squad on Christmas Day. It's believed the couple was hastily buried in an unmarked grave in a military cemetery in Bucharest. Scientists are now trying to use DNA evidence to see if they can confirm that. Iona Avadani is Director of the Center for Independent Journalism in Bucharest. Iona, why dig up the corpses now 21 years later?
IONA AVADANI: Well, Marco, we have been waiting for more than [SOUNDS LIKE] 20 years to understand what happened, what really happened in December '89. And today's episode is just a part of the whole process of finally getting rid of all the uncertainties. Are they or are they not Ceausescus?
WERMAN: And can you tell us, Iona, why the doubt in the first place?
AVADANI: Everything that happened in December '89 is a mixture of what we've seen and a lot of [SOUNDS LIKE] added history. We don't know for sure yet if it was a revolution, if it was a coup d'etat, if it was a popular [SOUNDS LIKE] upraise or something like that. And the twenty years that have passed didn't add to the clarity of history. There are a lot of rumors, there are a lot of evidences that appear or disappear.
WERMAN: Iona, who's fabricating what?
AVADANI: Well, there is a suspicion, and it was publicly voiced off, that the intelligence services are actually fabricating quote-unquote evidence or destroying evidence.
WERMAN: So there is concern that even if there is genetic evidence that people might not believe it.
AVADANI: Well, the genetic evidence is quite difficult to deny, but I can bet my morning coffee that somebody will say that the analyzers were rigged or the analyzers were correct, but the answer was not the one publically released. And I would say that whatever the result is returned by the forensic [SOUNDS LIKE] analyzers, it will be one way or another challenged.
WERMAN: So, it sounds like many Romanians want clarification on who these bodies actually are. But also the family of the Ceausescus have been suing the defense ministry for the last five years to find out what bodies are there. So it sounds like there's doubt in many areas.
AVADANI: Absolutely and I would say that the exhumations today are more a family matter than a public interest matter. Ceausescus had the offsprings, two boys and a girl. Two of them are already dead. Only one surviving led very diligently this work of restoring the family's history. He sued for getting back the belongings of the Ceausescus. He sued to get property over the burial ground and now he managed to get this exhumations approved in order to finally find out if his parents are there or not.
WERMAN: Iona, do you think most Romanians believe they are dead?
AVADANI: Yes. Yes. Definitely. Definitely and some of them regret it bitterly. And it was customary for the nostalgics to go to what was supposed to be Nicolae's grave on his birthday. You know, bring him flowers, lighting candles, and having vigils there.
WERMAN: And, Iona, are you personally dismayed by this nostalgia?
AVADANI: No. And I can understand nostalgia. What I cannot understand is this denial of the undeniable progress. Compare our lives now with our lives 20 years ago. There's no way, no way we can say that nothing changed.
WERMAN: Iona Avadani, Director of the Center for Independent Journalism in Bucharest. Thank you so much for your time.
AVADANI: Thank you, Marco.