Couple of years ago, the Communist leaders of Eastern Europe were falling like dominoes. And on Christmas Day in 1989, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed by firing squad.
The deaths of the despised couple ended a quarter-century of iron-fisted rule that translated into oppression and misery for most Romanians.
The trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu was a short trial held on 25 December 1989 by an Exceptional Military Tribunal, a drumhead court-martial created at the request of a newly formed group called the National Salvation Front.
It resulted in guilty verdicts and death sentences for former Romanian President and Romanian Communist Party General Secretary, Nicolae Ceaușescu, and his wife, Elena Ceaușescu.
The main charge was genocide—namely, murdering “over 60,000 people” during the revolution in Timișoara.Other sources put the death toll between 689 and 1,200. Nevertheless, the charges did not affect the trial
In addition to violent political oppression, Romanians suffered repeated food shortages under Ceausescu’s rule because he exported most of Romania’s harvest and took drastic steps to curb the country’s heavy debts. The situation worsened after he appointed his wife first deputy prime minister.
The trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu was very brief, lasting approximately one hour. Ceaușescu defended himself by arguing that the tribunal was against the 1965 Constitution of Romania and that only the Great National Assembly had the power to depose him. He argued that it was a coup d’état organized by the Soviets.
Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu were convicted on all charges and condemned to death in a show trial. At one point, their forcibly-assigned lawyers abandoned their clients’ defense and joined with the prosecutor, accusing them of capital crimes instead of defending them.
Just after the trial, the Ceaușescus were executed at 4:00 p.m. local time at a military base outside Bucharest on 25 December 1989.The execution was carried out by a firing squad consisting of paratroop regiment soldiers.