The Romanian businessman Dan Adamescu, owner of the conservative newspaper Romania Libera which has long been a thorn in the side of the government, has died of septicaemia age 68. He had been jailed since May 2016 after being sentenced to four years and four months in prison accused of bribing judges. The news of his death was announced by his daughter-in-law and confirmed by representatives of Romania Libera.
His son Alexander Adamescu is a British resident subject to a highly publicised European Arrest Warrant from Romania and earlier this month he blamed the Romanian state for an attempted kidnapping of his wife. The Romanian authorities have demanded his extradition as part of a wider case against his father. Alexander is fighting extradition on the grounds that the EAW is politically motivated; he believes that his father was targeted by authorities and he is now himself the target of false accusations.
The Metropolitan Police arrested him last June two hours before he was to due to speak at a conference about the abuses of the EAW system and locked up in Wandsworth Prison for two nights before being released on bail pending a hearing. The EAW for Alexander was issued just days after he filed a request for arbitration by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes over claims that individuals in the Romanian government deliberately targeted and undermined his father’s business dealings in the country.
Alexander has stated that his father was killed by an aggressive infection that he got while imprisoned. The former president of Romania, Traian Basescu, has said that he was killed by the “contempt for life of prosecutors and judges”. In a long Facebook post, Basescu claimed that Adamescu should have been released from jail earlier on medical grounds:
“The DNA [Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate] prosecutors had all the medical papers of the man, the papers that proved the critical health situation. However, they continued to ask for him to remain in jail. Moreover, his health situation worsened by the disease he got in jail. In addition, the judges, who had the same papers, but who were obedient and frightened by the pressure of the DNA prosecutors, kept him in jail although the man was weakened by the disease,” said Basescu.
Traian Basescu has been a frequent critic of abuses of the judiciary in Romania and said that all people should have the right to a fair trial. Dan Adamescu’s trial appears to have been far from free or fair. Fair Trials International analysed the filings in his trial and made it a key case study in their paper calling for the strengthening of the presumption of innocence to avoid violating the rights of the defendant. The paper declared that “judicial statements made in the course of pre-trial detention proceeding have failed to respect the presumption of innocence.”
This is something of an understatement. Judicial statements made pre-trial range from asserting that he “must be exposed to public shame” to another judge referring to “the seriousness of the illegal actions committed by him”. Even more shocking, former Prime Minister Victor Ponta, in power at the time of Mr Adamescu’s arrest and detention, publicly declared his guilt on several occasions. On 24th May 2014, well before the trial, Ponta said on television that Adamescu had “led a network of corruption to such a great effect over a period of many years.”
Mr Adamescu’s health undoubtedly deteriorated as he languished in a prison system described as “dating from the Middle Ages” by Romanian officials. Romanian prisons are among the worst in Europe. Prisoners die because of horrendous conditions and the lack of medical care. In June 2016 there were extended prison revolts triggered by the unbearable conditions. Prison inmates set fire to their cells and refused to eat food.
The steep decline of his health began from being remanded in custody and incarcerated in Centrul de Arest Preventive from June 5th 2014 and then in Rahova prison a month later. In the latter he was held with the judges he had allegedly bribed.
In Centrul de Arest Preventive, a pre-trial detainment centre, he was in a cell with six to eight other men at a time. They shared a very basic toilet (effectively a hole in the ground) without separation from the rest of the cell. Prisoners were detained in their cell all day with little space for movement and no activities. The “outdoor space” they were allowed into for an hour a day was effectively a closed room of approximately 30 square metres with a metal grate instead of a ceiling. The room was full of rubbish and the excrement of other prisoners.
Due to the inactivity and the severe pain of his advanced arthritis of the knee his muscles atrophied quickly in detention, leading to the rapid degradation of his knee condition. Soon enough he struggled to stand and walk without support. Mr Adamescu claimed that on several occasions he fell into his own excrement in the toilet because he lacked the strength to crouch. He was cleansed with a hose as there was no other way to get clean and was made to wait for clean clothes.
In Rahova prison his health declined further. The lack of proper medical attention or access to a wheelchair meant he could not partake in physical activity, worsening his condition. During this time he was denied his usual medication for period of 37 days despite the fact his family had provided it.
The conditions of the prison, and the suffering of his fellow prisoners, began to be detrimental to his mental health also. Mr Adamescu described the screaming of his fellow prisoners who would bang their head on their cell doors and wail through the night. Judge Stacnui, one of the accused judges, began to have screaming and crying fits before being put on strong tranquilizers. Dan Adamescu began to feel constantly anxious and afraid, as if he was losing his mind; ‘I have lost the ability to think clearly […] I have lost confidence in humans. I have lost interest in life.’
The declining state of his physical and mental health alarmed his family. His son Alexander contacted their German family doctor in Frankfurt. He wrote two reports to the court on 22nd August and 9th September describing his illness and declaring him unfit for imprisonment.
On 28th August 2012 he was placed under house arrest, but was denied proper medical treatment because the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) had declared him a public danger.
After a speedy trial in October 2014 Dan was sentenced to four years and four months on 2nd Feb 2015. He was subsequently imprisoned in Rahova prison where he took to a wheelchair permanently. The conditions of the prison led to multiple infections, including an eye infection that rendered him blind in one eye.
Finally, he was transferred to hospital in order to prepare for knee surgery. Doctors concluded that he was not in a fit state for surgery and needed to stay in hospital for two more weeks. He was instead sent back to prison because the prison administration said they couldn’t justify keeping in hospital for such a long time.
When I spoke to his son in October 2016 he was emotionally distressed about the treatment of his father. He told me: ‘He’s a man who simply can’t survive in those conditions.’ Tragically, he has been proven right.
Alexander has his hearing in April, when he will find out if he will be extradited to face trial in Romania for the same crimes as his father.
Ben Kelly is an Executive Director of Conservatives for Liberty.