Romania's president asks parliament to include Gypsies in Holocaust legislation

Traian Basescu sent the bill back to parliament, which will vote on his recommendation.He urged lawmakers to take into consideration the conclusions of a panel led by Nobel-prize laureate Elie Wiesel that studied the Holocaust in Romania, which stated that Gypsies, or Roma, were persecuted alongside Jews by the government of Marshal Ion Antonescu.

Last week, rights activists and European lawmakers signed an open letter last week objecting to the wording of the legislation, which bans Holocaust denial and aims to make racism illegal.

In the letter, signatories complained that the bill failed to mention that the Holocaust targeted Roma as well as Jews. Parliament sent the legislation to Basescu to sign on Thursday.

In the statement, the president's office said that of 25,000 Roma who were deported from Romania to Trans-Dniester in the Soviet Union during World War II, about 11,000 died. "The centuries-old nomad Roma community disappeared forever."

The wartime regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu was responsible for the deaths of more than 11,000 Roma and between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews, said the International Committee for the Study of the Holocaust, a panel of historians set up last year.

Prejudice against Roma is common in Romania. Officially, 500,000 Roma live in the country, although unofficially there are believed to be at least double the number. A.M.

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