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Romania Upholds 20-year Term for Communist-era Criminal

FILE - Alexandru Visinescu, the commander of the Ramnicu Sarat prison in eastern Romania between 1956 and 1963 while the country was under communist rule, leaves a court in Bucharest, Sept. 24, 2014.

Romanian appeals court has upheld a 20-year jail term for a man who ran a notorious communist-era prison and was convicted of crimes against humanity.

The Bucharest High Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal from 90-year-old Alexandru Visinescu, who was convicted in July 2015. He ran the Ramnicu Sarat prison for political detainees, where all prisoners were kept in solitary confinement, could not speak to each other, and were starved and beaten.

Visinescu's lawyers said he was only obeying orders and did not break the law.

Supporters of the ruling say it sets an important precedent for communist-era crimes. Besides Visinescu, the only other person who has been charged with crimes against humanity from Romania's brutal Soviet Bloc days is dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was tried and executed in 1989.