Romanian minister calls for firing of anti-graft prosecutor

February 22, 2018

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s justice minister called on Thursday for the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor to be removed from her post, citing what he said were serious concerns about the way she did her job.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader claimed that National Anti-Corruption Directorate Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi had “deformed reality” about Romania and its rule of law in interviews with the foreign media.

He also said she displayed an “excessively authoritarian attitude” by personally supervising prosecutors investigating a contentious decree that would have decriminalized official misconduct. The measure sparked weeks of massive anti-graft protests. After his remarks, hundreds gathered in a central square in Bucharest to protest against the justice minister and there were smaller protests against him in other cities.

President Klaus Iohannis immediately rejected Toader’s report, saying it “lacked clarity” and contradicted the presidency’s own conclusions. Iohannis has the final say on firing any senior prosecutor.

Romania’s General Prosecutor Augustin Lazar expressed his support for Kovesi, saying there were no legal grounds to dismiss her.

In his criticism, the minister also claimed Kovesi strove to convict senior officials “at any price” and had failed to take action about alleged abuses by prosecutors.

Critics, however, said Toader’s proposal was meant to satisfy the demands of the left-wing ruling coalition, which has been very critical of Kovesi and the anti-corruption fight.

“The justice minister once again abandoned his responsibility as minister in order to serve political interests,” said Romania Platform 100, a non-governmental group headed by former Premier Dacian Ciolos.

In a statement, Iohannis reiterated his support for Kovesi and the anti-corruption prosecutors’ agency.

The agency said in its last report in February 2017 that three ministers, 17 lawmakers, 16 magistrates and other officials were among high-level graft cases investigated in 2016.

Update hourly