Go away, court tells husband. You’ve been dead for 15 years

Romanian judge says 63-year-old cannot overturn death certificate granted to wife

Dead man walking: Constantin Reliu’s wife obtained a death certificate after he had spent more than a decade abroad. Photograph: Adrian Arnautu/AFP/Getty

Dead man walking: Constantin Reliu’s wife obtained a death certificate after he had spent more than a decade abroad. Photograph: Adrian Arnautu/AFP/Getty

 

In a case reminiscent of a Kafka novel, a Romanian court has ruled that a 63-year-old man is dead despite what would appear to be convincing evidence to the contrary: the man himself appeared alive and well in court.

Constantin Reliu asked the judge in the town of Barlad to overturn a death certificate his wife obtained after he had spent more than a decade in Turkey, during which time he was out of contact with his family. The court told him he was too late and would have to remain officially deceased.

“I am officially dead, although I’m alive,” a bemused Reliu told local media. “I have no income, and because I am listed dead I can’t do anything.”

Reliu left Romania for Turkey in 1992, apparently to seek employment. He last returned to the country in 1999, and appears to have cut off all contact with his family. After years of silence from her estranged husband, Reliu’s wife obtained a backdated death certificate for him.

The Romanian daily Adevarul said Reliu’s wife had argued in court that, having heard nothing from her husband since the end of the 1990s, she had assumed he had died in an earthquake while in Turkey. The paper said Reliu believes she sought the death certificate in order to annul the marriage and allow her to remarry.

He may never have found out about his death in his homeland if he had not been apprehended by Turkish authorities earlier this year and deported back to Romania because of his expired documents. Reliu had planned to renew his passport in Romania and return to Turkey, but when he arrived he was detained by immigration officers who told him he had died in 2003.

Reliu said he wants to return to Turkey and has set up a small company there, but he is now faced with a confusing legal battle to regain his identity and obtain a passport.

A spokeswoman for the court explained that Reliu had been too late with his appeal against the death certificate and had therefore lost the case. The ruling is apparently final and cannot be appealed, leaving Reliu in legal limbo. – Guardian