BUCHAREST, Romania - Gabriel Tepelea, 95, an anti-communist dissident who spent six years in gulags and later played a key role in Romanian political life when communism collapsed, has died, a former party colleague said.

Tanase Tavala said Tepelea, who also was a prolific author on the subjects of language and literature, died at home in Bucharest on Thursday, but provided no further details. Romanian President Traian Basescu and former President Emil Constantinescu sent their condolences Friday.

"Romania has lost another moral and intellectual compass who marked the rebirth of the traditional political elite after the collapse of communism," Constantinescu said.

A staunch opponent of the pro-Moscow communists who came to power in 1945, he was arrested, his assets were confiscated, and he was sentenced to prison in 1949 along with tens of thousands who were condemned in political trials. He was released in 1955, and he was forced to perform unskilled labor. He later pursued a career in education and became the dean of the Philology Faculty in the western city of Timisoara in the early 1970s, specializing in Romanian and French.

He wrote more than 20 books on literature and language.