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Romania's top anti-graft prosecutor faces sack

October 24, 2018

Romania's Social Democrat government has tried to pass a series of controversial changes to the country's judicial system in recent months. The firing of the public prosecutor could draw the ire of the European Union.

Romanian Minister of Justice, Tudorel Toader addresses a press conference at the Romanian Justice Ministry headquarters in Bucharest February 22, 2018.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Mihailescu

Romania's justice minister requested the sacking of one of the country's leading anti-corruption prosecutors on Wednesday. The move comes amid heighten concerns over the rule of law in the eastern European country.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader (pictured) accused Public Prosecutor Augustin Lazar of exceeding his authority and officially asked President Klaus Iohannis to remove him.

Lazar had received praise from the European Union for his part in tackling high-level graft in the country, one of the most corrupt in the bloc. In his role, he oversees an anti-organized crime agency and an anti-corruption agency.

Lazar said "the independence of prosecutors is being violated" upon hearing the justice minister's request.

A recent supreme court ruling means that the president does not have the right to oppose the justice minister's request.

Romanians take to the streets

Fears over rule of law in Romania

Toader's decision follows the removal of Romania's top anti-corruption prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, in July. The lawyer had become prominent for leading investigations into wrongdoing by senior politicians and officials.

The European Union and the country's highest court have criticized other actions against the judicial system by the Social Democrat government in recent months.

In early October, supreme court judges rejected 60 changes to the criminal code. Critics had feared the amendments would allow the leader of the Social Democrats, Liviu Dragnea, to escape a jail sentence and two other prosecutions.

Separate government attempts to soften the country's anti-corruption legislation sparked massive protests earlier this year.

The European Commission is expected to release a report on the rule of law in Romania in November.

amp/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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