Romania: Pastor who brought down Communist regime stripped of state honour

Transylvanian Hungarian National Council chairman and MEP Laszlo Tokes delivers a speech during a reception at the European Parliament.Reuters

Romania's president has stripped the Hungarian pastor who helped trigger the downfall of the infamous Ceaucescu regime of a high state honour, according to the Associated Press.

Laszlo Tokes, a politician and bishop of the Reformed Church, received the prestigious Star of Romania award in 2009. It was given in recognition of his key role in the revolution that was to result in the deaths by firing squad of the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena.

However, Tokes, himself an ethnic Hungarian, has been outspoken in calling for a Hungarian protectorate to be established over Romania's sizeable Hungarian minority. The issue is highly sensitive in Romania as the country includes territory that was Hungarian until borders were redrawn after the First World War and that Hungarians would still like back.

A Romanian politician, Corina Cretu, urged the withdrawal of the award in 2013 saying Tokes had "harmed the Romanian state and all Romanian citizens who disavow extreme positions going against inter-ethnic coexistence".

Romania's President Klaus Iohannis confirmed yesterday he was withdrawing the award after a court ruled in favour of the action, suggesting Tokes did not respect Romania's constitution.

Tokes was a pastor in Timisoara in Transylvania in 1989, where he led protests against the government's policy of forcibly removing the population of small villages and destroying churches and monasteries.

In spite of threats and harassment by the feared Securitate secret police, he led the protests that become a revolt.