BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Ion Diaconescu, an anti-communist activist who helped Romania's push toward democracy, has died. He was 94.
Diaconescu, whose was imprisoned for 17 years by the communists for his political beliefs, died Tuesday night, said former Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. No cause of death was given, but Diaconescu had recently been treated for heart problems.
Parliament held a minute of silence on Wednesday for Diaconescu who was acclaimed as a politician who was guided by principles, not personal interests.
"Today's politicians only think about their own interests. ... That is why Romania is crawling along," said Romania's best-known political dissident, Doina Cornea.
Like Diaconescu, Cornea was put under house arrest by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu for criticizing the communist regime.
"Ion Diaconescu understood that faith and principles are national treasures, and he didn't betray these (values), enduring 17 years in communist prisons," said Cornea.
Diaconescu entered politics in the late 1930s as a member of the youth organization of the Peasant Party. He was arrested in 1947 after the Communists came to power in Romania and survived prison, unlike tens of thousands of Romanians who died in the communist gulags.
He was released under an amnesty for political prisoners in 1964 and helped re-establish the center-right Peasants' Party after communism ended in Romania in 1989.
Diaconescu was speaker of Parliament's Chamber of Deputies from 1996 to 2000 and headed the Democratic Convention, a loose governing coalition that was marred by political infighting. A consensus seeker, he was widely respected, even by his political rivals.
Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu and current President Traian Basescu both paid tribute to him Wednesday. Basescu said Diaconescu remains "a symbol of the fight against communism."
Former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu said Diaconescu was "a symbol of communist resistance in Romania and Eastern Europe, and a symbol of honesty and honor" in politics.
Diaconescu's open coffin was put on display at the Peasant's Party headquarters on Wednesday. He was not survived by any close relatives.
He will be buried in Bucharest on Thursday.