Romania’s top legal body rejects bid to dismiss anti-corruption prosecutor

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Romania’s Justice Minister Tudorel Toader called for the country’s main anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi’s dismissal, saying she is responsible for “acts and facts intolerable to the rule of law.”

Romania’s judicial watchdog on Tuesday rejected an application by the justice minister to sack the country’s main anti-corruption prosecutor, bolstering her case days after protesters amassed in the streets to support her work.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader had called for Laura Codruta Kovesi’s dismissal on Thursday, accusing her of exceeding her authority and damaging the country’s image abroad.

The Superior Magistrates’ Council (CSM), which must discuss any such dismissal, voted against the application on Tuesday and said it would explain its decision later.

The final decision on Kovesi’s future now goes to centrist President Klaus Iohannis, who has said he supports her.

A man holds an EU flag during a protest against the Justice minister and corruption in front of the Romanian Government in Bucharest on February 25, 2018.
A man holds an EU flag during a protest against the Justice minister and corruption in front of the Romanian Government in Bucharest on February 25, 2018. (AFP)

Praise from Brussels

She has led anti-corruption prosecution agency DNA since 2013, and under her management conviction rates have risen sharply in one of the European Union’s most corrupt states, winning praise from Brussels, which has Romania’s justice system under special monitoring.

More than 1,000 magistrates have signed a petition saying Toader’s request threatened judicial independence and would put pressure on prosecutors, leaving them facing the constant threat of being removed from office.

The minister had drawn up a 20-point report calling for Kovesi’s dismissal and told reporters last week she was responsible for “acts and facts intolerable to the rule of law.”

On Tuesday, the minister told the council the debate over DNA’s management would continue, “regardless of what the CSM decides, of what the president decides, of what the Constitutional Court decides, if it is involved.”

Cardboard cutouts of the Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, Social Democrat Party leader Liviu Dragnea and Senate president Popescu Tariceanu dressed in prison garb are seen while people protest a government move to call for the sacking of the country's chief anti-corruption prosecutor in Bucharest, Romania, February 25, 2018.
Cardboard cutouts of the Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, Social Democrat Party leader Liviu Dragnea and Senate president Popescu Tariceanu dressed in prison garb are seen while people protest a government move to call for the sacking of the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor in Bucharest, Romania, February 25, 2018. (Reuters)

Kovesi told the watchdog during the same hearing the minister’s accusations were groundless.

She defended her agency’s work. “Through its actions, DNA has proved that the fight against corruption is efficient in Romania, which has improved the country’s image.”

Prosecutors have investigated lawmakers, ministers, mayors, magistrates and businessmen in recent years, exposing conflicts of interest, abuse of power, fraud and the award of state contracts in exchange for bribes.

DNA, which will present its annual report on Wednesday, has sent more than 70 members of parliament to trial since 2006. The speakers of parliament’s lower house and senate are both currently on trial in separate cases.

The country’s ruling Social Democrats tried a year ago to decriminalise several corruption offences by emergency decree, triggering the largest street protestsin decades.

Source: Reuters
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