Bucharest: Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena's remains were exhumed Wednesday for DNA tests, a move meant to dispel one of the mysteries surrounding the communist regime's 1989 fall.
"I tend to believe the remains are those of my in-laws, but I cannot be a hundred percent sure until the DNA tests are performed," Mircea Oprean, the husband of the Ceausescus' late daughter Zoia, told reporters.
"I saw the bodies, my father-in-law's was quite well preserved, I recognized his black winter coat with some holes in it," presumably bullet holes, he added.
Nicolae Ceausescu ruled Romania with an iron fist from 1965 until 1989.
In December 1989, as communist regimes crumbled across eastern and central Europe, the Ceausescus fled massive protests in Bucharest and other cities.
They were arrested and executed on December 25, after a mock trial.
Brutally put down, the anti-communist uprising and the ensuing violence with mysterious "terrorists" left 1,104 people dead and 3,352 wounded.
Fearing the tombs might be desecrated, the new authorities decided to bury the Ceausescus surreptitiously, at night, in Bucharest's military graveyard of Ghencea, under crosses bearing false names, according to witnesses.
The couple's three children, of whom just one son, Valentin, is still alive, repeatedly said they doubted their parents had actually been buried there.
But for years, authorities blocked their attempts to have the two bodies exhumed.
"If my wife Zoia had been alive, this would have been the happiest day of her life," Oprean said.
After DNA samples were taken, the two bodies were reburied.
An AFP journalist present on the scene said she had seen fresh soil on the two graves, several yards apart.
Oprean said he planned a full funeral ceremony if the tests confirmed the remains were those of his inlaws.
If they did not, he said he would sue the authorities for hiding the truth.
Oprean moreover accused former president Ion Iliescu, who took power in the aftermath of Ceausescu's fall, and his aides of having "murdered" the couple and buried them like "pagans" would.
But a former top official of Iliescu's regime, Gelu Voican-Voiculescu, who had supervised the burial in 1989, said he was happy the tests would finally prove he had told the truth all along.
"The Ceausescus' remains will definitely be found in those tombs. They were buried on December 30 and the inhumation was taped," Voican-Voiculescu told Realitatea TV channel.
"I hope those who have harassed me for years with all sorts of accusations will now apologize."
The DNA tests could take several months, experts said.
As soon as the exhumation procedures were over, dozens of those nostalgic for the communist regime gathered around the tomb.
"Our life was better then, we had everything we needed," a woman told reporters.
However, Valentin Ceausescu, a physicist who has always lived far from the limelight, was not present at the graveyard.
Twenty years after the toppling of the communist regime, many of the dramatic events of the time are still shrouded in mystery.
Some Romanians still question the circumstances of the Ceausescus' execution, the aftermath of which was broadcast around the world.
But prosecutor Dan Voinea, who drew up the charge sheet against the couple -- the dictator's wife was first deputy prime minister in the 1980s -- and later investigated the uprising, said the doubts were not justified.
"I was at the execution. It happened very quickly; the cameraman didn't even have time to film it," he told AFP last December.
First Published: Thursday, July 22, 2010, 00:26