Romanians condemn govt amnesty

Romanians condemn govt amnesty

President Klaus Iohannis has joined the protesters. Source: Wikimedia

Thousands of Romanians have marched across the country to protest against a government move to pardon thousands of prisoners in an apparent reversal of the anti-corruption fight.

Around 30,000 protesters marched from University Square in Bucharest and pushed police aside to reach the centre of government. Thousands also protested in Cluj, Timisoara, Sibiu and Iasi. The four-hour protest in Bucharest was lifted by the arrival of President Klaus Iohannis, a government critic who supports the anti-corruption campaign.

“Romanians are rightly indignant. People have a right to be outraged as a gang of politicians who face criminal problems want to change the legislation and weaken the rule of law,” he told protesters. “It’s unacceptable to change legislation just to clean up the files of tens and hundreds of politicians in trouble with the law so they are able to go ahead with their wrongdoings.”

Protesters held banners reading “We are awake”, “We want justice, not corruption” and chanted “thieves” as they marched.

Liviu Dragnea, chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party, said Iohannis was “inciting social disorder and violence”, accusing him of trying to launch “a coup d’etat”.

The new prime minister, Sorin Grindeanu, claims his emergency ordinance to pardon prisoners will ease overcrowding in prisons. His opponents argue that it will help Grindeanu free his allies from jail and are demanding a parliamentary debate.

The draft decrees have alarmed people complaining about a lack of transparency and of legislating through orders instead of with parliamentary scrutiny.

They would decriminalise other offences, including corruption-related ones like abuse of office. Chief prosecutors and judicial associations said the planned changes, made by way of emergency decrees, were “unacceptable” and targeted at specific people, such as high-ranking politicians probed for corruption.

The draft decrees would decriminalise abuse of power acts that cause less than 200,000 lei (US$47,500) in damages, an offence with which the Social Democrats’ leader is accused.

 

Dragnea himself has a two-year suspended prison sentence for voter rigging and media boss Dan Voiculescu is serving a 10-year sentence for money-laundering.

The justice ministry’s proposal last Wednesday, which was criticised by Romania’s principal prosecutor, magistrates and parliamentary opposition, targets those with sentences of under five years, except for those convicted on sexual, violence or corruption charges.

Prisoners over 60, pregnant women and inmates with young children would have their terms halved regardless of their convictions.

The prison authorities claim 3,700 inmates could be freed with the government estimating the number at 2,500.

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