Romania’s most famous case of miscarriage of justice involved Marcel Tundrea, sentenced to 25 years in prison for raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl, in 1992, in the southern village of Pojogeni. Tundrea was 42 when he was convicted. Twelve years later, DNA evidence that was not available at the time of his first trial proved he was not the killer. He was released in 2004. Remus Budai, a prosecutor at the General Prosecutor’s Office, was appointed to work the unsolved case after Tundrea left jail.
“I started with huge prejudice because I didn’t think our justice system could make such a serious mistake,” he said. “There were some things that didn’t seem right.”
During his investigation, Budai uncovered irregularities that he attributed to Ion Diaconescu, the prosecutor in Tundrea’s trial, including the omission of key evidence and a failure to call to the stand Gheorghe Avram, known to police as one of the last people to see the girl alive. According to an indictment filed by the General Prosecutor’s Office, seen by BIRN, Budai concluded that Diaconescu had committed abuse of office, a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison at that time. However, no action could be taken against Diaconescu due to a statute of limitations of five years for such offences.
Dan Antonescu, former chief of the homicide department of Bucharest police, said: “We are talking about a prosecutor who intentionally omitted some evidence. He didn’t want to check Tundrea’s alibis, a mistake maintained at least two, even three times.”
In 2010, Budai ordered a DNA test of Avram. It proved he was the murderer.
Tundrea never knew about Avram’s conviction.
He died in 2007 from a lung disease he had contracted while in prison. He was posthumously acquitted.