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Nicolae Ceausescu and dictator's wife exhumed in Romania. Why?

Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife – or the bodies of those purported to be the former communist leaders of Romania – were exhumed Wednesday. DNA tests will be done, at the urging of the surviving Ceausescu family, to verify their identities.

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In this photo taken on Dec. 25, 2009, a man stands with a lit candle, next to the grave of late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, in Bucharest, Romania to commemorate 20 years since his execution. Taking the country by surprise, forensic scientists on Wednesday exhumed what are believed to be the bodies of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena at the request of their children.

Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo/File

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Scientists on Wednesday briefly exhumed the remains of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, from a military cemetery in west Bucharest to take DNA samples and verify their identities.

The couple were shot by firing squad on Christmas Day 1989 after a summary trial. They had been captured trying to flee the country by helicopter. The process, critics say, made the transition of power to the administration of Ion Iliescu a bloody coup rather than a revolution.

The uncertainty about the whereabouts of the bodies stems from the fact that the shooting itself was not filmed, only the mock trial and the bullet-riddled corpses afterwards. And, to add to the confusion, there was a delay in screening the footage of the burial on Romanian television. The burial location was kept secret.

"Like the Romanov family [in Russia], the Ceausescu's were condemned by an ad-hoc trial and summarily executed on Christmas day in a procedure that had all the sophistication of an African tribal court," writes the Adevărul (The Truth), a Bucharest newspaper.

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