Thousands gather for fresh protests over marred election

Thousands gathered for a new opposition rally to oppose election results and to denounce President Vladimir Voronin's leadership. The protests come after riots earlier this week, amid charges students were detained during demonstrations.


AFP - About 10,000 people joined an opposition rally in Moldova on Sunday to denounce President Vladimir Voronin's "dictatorial" leadership after post-election rioting.

The demonstrators massed in front of the government headquarters for a series of fiery speeches and chanted "Down with Communists, democracy for Moldova!"

But the atmosphere remained relatively restrained after calls for calm by an anxious European Union and the United States.

Most of those present were older demonstrators, after many young activists were arrested last week.

"We should voice our protest at human rights violations.... Hundreds of innocent young people have been arrested and beaten by the police," the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Vlad Filat, told the crowd.

Echoing other opposition leaders, he described as "genocide" the police's treatment of demonstrators who took to the streets after the parliamentary polls last weekend, which the opposition says were rigged.

City mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, who is a leader of the opposition Liberal Party, insisted the post-election violence was orchestrated by Voronin's leadership.

"When Voronin asks who organised these disturbances he should look in the mirror because it was he himself who organised them," he told the crowd.

One of Europe's poorest states, Moldova remained outside the Western course of many central and east European states after the 1991 Soviet collapse, held back by its complex 20th century history and a separatist conflict.

Dozens were injured and hundreds arrested in last week's rioting, which was sparked by claims of vote-rigging at the parliamentary polls.

On Sunday the death was confirmed of one opposition supporter present during the unrest, 23-year-old father-of-one Valeriu Boboc.

His parents told opposition websites they had picked up his body from a morgue covered in bruises after he was beaten in custody.

But interior ministry spokeswoman Alla Meleka told Interfax news agency he died from gas used for crowd control.

"According to the autopsy the young man died from gas poisoning. An investigation into this case is being carried out," she said.

The weekend vote was officially won by Voronin's Communist Party, with 60 out of the 101 seats in parliament.

The new parliament is to decide on a new president to replace Voronin.

The constitutional court was later expected to rule on a call by Voronin for a recount of the vote, a proposal he put forward to restore trust.

The move has been dismissed by the opposition who say the problems with the vote lay elsewhere, such as the inclusion of many long-dead residents on electoral lists.

On Saturday the interior ministry released lists of those detained in the unrest and denied charges of a cover-up or that detainees had been beaten and tortured.

The ministry said 129 were subject to administrative detention for five to 15 days. One hundred and sixty-six face criminal charges for vandalism, looting and theft at parliamentary and presidential offices. Another 14 are charged with organising the disturbances.

"No one has made a secret of the detainees list but it has changed considerably over time.... All their rights are being respected and they are getting medical and legal help," the interior ministry's Meleka told AFP.

On Saturday the election commission officially approved the election results but three of the nine commission members denounced what they described as "grave violations."

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