BUDAPEST -- Andras Suto, a writer and human rights advocate for his fellow ethnic Hungarians in Romania who was persecuted by Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, died Saturday night at the Budapest hospital where he was being treated for cancer. He was 79.
Hungary's prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, described Mr. Suto as a ``creator, a sufferer, and nearly a martyr of our common history."
``His rich life's work, individual example, and personal tragedy is a warning to us all that our region, Central-Eastern Europe, can have only one road -- openness and tolerance toward each other and the finding of a common denominator called culture," Gyurcsany said in a statement.
Western Romania, including Transylvania, was part of Hungary until World War I and still has a large ethnic Hungarian population.
Mr. Suto for decades spoke up when the human rights of ethnic Hungarians in Romania were threatened, including attempts at forced integration, efforts by Ceausescu's communist regime to eliminate Hungarian-language schools, and plans to bulldoze villages, many of them predominantly Hungarian.
In March 1990, Mr. Suto was nearly beaten to death and lost an eye during clashes between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians in the Romanian city of Tirgu Mures after Ceausescu was ousted in December 1989.
In his works, Mr. Suto wrote much about the ordeals of living as a minority -- often in humorous, melancholic tones -- but he also called for the peaceful coexistence among ethnic groups.
From 1980, the Ceausescu regime banned his works, but they continued to be published and performed to great critical and popular acclaim in Hungary.
Among his best-known works are the semiautobiographical ``My Mother Promises Light Dreams," the essay collection ``Let The Words Come To Me," and a play ``Advent On Harghita."