Romania ex-PM attempts suicide after losing appeal | News | DW | 21.06.2012
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Romania ex-PM attempts suicide after losing appeal

A former Romanian prime minister has made an attempt on his life after losing his appeal of a corruption conviction. Anti-corruption activists hailed the court ruling as a milestone for Romania's legal system.

Former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase attempted suicide on Wednesday, just hours after the southeast European nation's highest court threw out his appeal of a two-year jail sentence on a corruption conviction.

The Mediafax news agency reported that Nastase shot himself in the throat after two police officers entered his home and served him with an arrest warrant. He had apparently left the officers to collect some books in another room when he shot himself.

Nastase was rushed to the hospital, where he was conscious and able to speak, but with difficulty. Doctors said they would likely operate on him later on Thursday.

"He is okay. He is conscious and has opened his eyes," Ion Cazacu, Nastase's lawyer, told journalists. "I saw a man who wanted to fight for his life."

Nastase served as the prime minister of Romania's Social Democratic government from 2000-2004. On March 30, he was convicted for embezzling a total of 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million) for his 2004 re-election campaign, which he lost.

Landmark conviction

Prosecutors said that Nastase had pressured public institutions and private companies to compete in a 2004 construction contest in which they had to pay participation fees. Those fees were laundered through several different bank accounts before landing in his campaign fund.

Nastase's appeal before Romania's Supreme Court was his last legal recourse in the country. He has promised to take his case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, claiming that his trial in Romania was politically motivated. He is the most senior politician to be convicted in Romania since the fall of communism in 1989.

Transparency International reported in 2011 that Romania is one of the European Union's most corrupt member states. Romania joined the EU in 2007.

"This verdict is opening a new era for Romanian justice in which judges are no longer afraid of condemning powerful people," Laura Stefan, an anti-corruption expert for the think tank Expert Forum, told the AFP news agency.

"It will make politicians think twice when they use their political attributions and the budget they are allocated for their personal interest."

slk/jm (AP, AFP)