5 July, 2018

BUCHAREST – A Romanian man who was declared dead has finally won acknowledgement from a court that he is alive, despite its earlier refusal to do so — even though he was there to defend himself in person.

Reliu Constantin, 63, returned to Romania in January after almost 20 years spent living in Turkey, but was shocked to discover that he had officially been declared dead. At first he thought it was a joke, but he soon discovered that life as a dead man in Romania was no laughing matter.

He moved to Turkey for work in 1992 but returned often to see his wife and daughter and regularly sent money home. However, in 1999, after a fraught visit home, he decided to cut off all contact with his family and friends and returned to Turkey.

After years without hearing from him, his estranged wife began official proceedings in 2013 to have him declared dead, believing that he must have perished in a strong earthquake that hit Turkey in 1999. In August 2016 a Romanian court issued his death certificate.

Soon afterwards, the Turkish authorities discovered that Mr Constantin had been living in the country illegally for almost 20 years with expired residency papers and after a short period of detention he was deported to Romania in January this year.

Upon arrival in Bucharest Mr Constantin was shocked to be told by customs officials that he was officially dead.

In March he appealed in person to the court in Barlad, eastern Romania, to annul his death certificate but it refused, saying that his appeal had come too late and the decision was final.

Luckily for Mr Constantin, the court reconsidered its verdict and the ruling was annulled on Tuesday. However, he now has to endure 30 days in which anyone can question his existence.

It is unclear what Mr Constantin plans to do next, but in March he told The New York Times: “I want to be buried in Turkey. My life is there.”