Romania’s president removes chief anti-corruption prosecutor
10 Jul 2018

Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis sacked chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi on Monday to honor a constitutional court ruling which Kovesi said may leave prosecutors exposed to political interference.

Kovesi has led the DNA anti-corruption agency since 2013 and, under her management, conviction rates have risen sharply in one of European Union’s most corrupt states, winning plaudits from Brussels who has its judiciary under special monitoring.

“Constitutional court rulings must be obeyed in a state that respects rule of law. The president issued the decree to remove the chief prosecutor from post,” presidency spokeswoman Madalina Dobrovolschi told reporters.

In reaction, Kovesi said: “Today’s episode is not a defeat – corruption can be defeated. Do not abandon (the fight). After 5 years, one month and 24 days in office I can tell you that nothing can be put in balance with the need to further fight corruption.”

She blamed ruling politicians for attempting to block the functioning of the judiciary by softening criminal-related bills in parliament, in a bid to seek protection against prosecution for “past, present and future,” deeds.

Kovesi said the court ruling that forced the president to sack her after an initial request by the justice ministry “will leave a big question mark hanging: Will there be a discretionary subordination of prosecutors to the justice ministry?”

Prosecutors have secured a spate of convictions in recent years against lawmakers, ministers and mayors, exposing conflicts of interest, abuse of power, fraud and awarding of state contracts in exchange for bribes.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader called for Kovesi’s dismissal in February, saying she had exceeded her authority and damaged Romania’s image abroad. His call drew thousands of anti-graft protesters onto the streets in opposition.

The country’s judicial watchdog had said Toader’s request was unfounded and Iohannis rejected it, prompting the government to ask the constitutional court to decide whether his rejection had created an institutional conflict.

– By Radu-Sorin Marinas, 9 June 2018, Reuters.

Link to Reuters.

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