Romanians protest minister’s putdown of top graft prosecutor

February 25, 2018

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in cities around the country Sunday to protest the justice minister’s call for the removal of the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor.

Demonstrators of all ages gathered in the Romanian capital’s bitterly cold weather for three hours to demand the resignation of Justice Minister Tudorel Toader. They blew whistles and waved Romanian and European Union flags and shouted “Resignation!” and “You won’t get away with it!” outside the government offices in Bucharest.

Some carried life-sized puppets of senior politicians who are indicted for corruption dressed in prison clothes.

Toader called Thursday for Laura Codruta Kovesi, the chief prosecutor of Romania’s National Anti-Corruption Directorate, to be fired. He cited what he said were serious concerns about the way she did her job.

Protesters are worried that the fight against graft led by Kovesi’s office is in danger.

“We want an independent justice system, not one where there is political interference,” allergist Ovidiu Berghi, 39.

Gabriela Popa, who owns a transport company and was at the protest in Bucharest, said the justice minister should resign.

“We are against politicians trying to avoid indictments by any means possible,” she said.

There were smaller protests in the cities of Timisoara, Sibiu, Cluj, Ploiesti, Galati and Iasi.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has suggested that politicians under investigation for corruption are trying to undermine reforms and reiterated his support for Kovesi. He has the final word on whether to fire her.

Last year, the ruling Social Democratic Party tried to decriminalize several corruption offenses, triggering the largest street protests in Romania since the uprising that led to communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s execution in 1989.

Update hourly