Dead Man Walking: Death Certificate Issued and Can’t be Appealed
Constantin Reliu decided to return home to his wife in Romania after spending more than twenty years separated from his family and working as a cook in Turkey. At the age of 63, the man returned to his home only to discover his wife had officially registered him as dead some time ago, and the country had issued a death certificate. An easy enough mistake to correct, right? Wrong.
Reliu has now been given the daunting task of proving to authorities that he is very much alive and well. Most recently, a court in the northeastern portion of Vaslui refused to overturn his death certificate due to what was cited as a mere clerical error. The man’s request was filed “too late.” The court also indicated its decision to rule against allowing Reliu to live again is final.
“I am a living ghost,” Reliu said. “I am officially dead, although I’m alive. I have no income and because I am listed as dead, I can’t do anything.”
Reliu is deeply emotional about his death status, and feels completely helpless in his quest to get his life reinstated. “I think I am going to cry,” he said, going on to voice a desire to seek revenge against his estranged wife, who is now living in Italy.
“I am not sure whether I am divorced or not,” Reliu added. “I am not sure whether she is married to someone else or not. Nobody will tell me.”
Reliu first went to work in Turkey in 1992 and returned three years later, in 1995, only to find out that his wife had been unfaithful. So, in 1999, he decided to return to Turkey for good. He completely lost touch with his family in Romania, and after some time without hearing from her husband, his wife was successful in getting the death certificate issued. Last December Turkish authorities detained him over expired papers, and in January, deported him to Romania.
Upon first arriving at Bucharest airport, however, Reliu was immediately informed by border officials that he had been declared dead, and he then proceeded to undergo six hours of questioning and various testing. Agents measured the distance between his eyes to see if it corresponded to an outdated passport photo, asked him basic questions about his hometown, such as where the town hall was located, and checked his fingerprints. Finally, Reliu declared, “They decided that it was me!”
But authorities in Barlad were still not convinced. The man spent weeks trying to persuade them to issue him papers proving once and for all he officially “existed.” When that failed, he asked them to overturn the ruling on his death certificate, issued in 2016, but then that failed as well.
Reliu said he would like to file a fresh lawsuit but has no money and suffers from diabetes, which further complicates his efforts. He also said he has been banned for life from returning to Turkey but would like, as a last resort, to write to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to appeal the court’s decision. At least Turkey acknowledged his existence all those years before his deportation.