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Romanian judges protest ruling party chief’s attacks

Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors have seized assets worth more than 27 million euros belonging to Dragnea
AFP

Bucharest (AFP) – Romanian judges and prosecutors hit back Monday at attacks on the judiciary by the ruling party’s embattled head Liviu Dragnea, who compared prosecutors to the communist-era secret police, saying he should be punished for intimidation.

Dragnea made the remarks on Saturday and in a TV interview a day later promised to “clean up the dirt left behind by the rats”.

“Describing members of the judiciary as ‘corrupt’, ‘Stalinists’, ‘torturers’ and ‘rats’ is a particularly serious development,” the Judges’ Forum, a key legal grouping, said. 

“The call to ‘stop abuses’, coming as it does from someone involved in legal troubles, is a form of pressure… and a dangerous precedent which ought to be punished,” it said.

Dragnea is the head of the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) but was barred from becoming prime minister following a 2016 conviction for electoral fraud.

A verdict in another fraud trial involving Dragnea is due later this month. 

The outgoing head of the DIICOT anti-terrorism body, Daniel Horodniceanu, told AFP he had asked the Higher Magistrates’ Council “to defend the professional reputation (of prosecutors) and the independence of the judiciary.”

Since the PSD returned to power at the end of 2016, Dragnea has led the party’s charge against what it says are abuses by the judiciary.

Critics say he is one of many in Romania’s elite annoyed by moves to clamp down on corruption in one of the EU’s most graft-ridden countries. 

Last year, the government put forward a proposal to weaken corruption legislation which would have spared Dragnea from standing trial in his current case.

But the government was forced to backtrack after the biggest wave of protests since the collapse of communism in 1989.

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