Over 20,000 rally in Bucharest against plans to amend criminal legislation

By bne IntelliNews January 23, 2017

More than 20,000 Romanians rallied on January 22 against the government’s plans to pardon some convicts and amend criminal legislation through emergency ordinances. The protest was attended by President Klaus Iohannis, who has previously suggested that the government should withdraw the ordinances.

The planned changes to the law have become a hot topic in the country in the past week as they are seen as tailored to help some politicians, including the leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea, evade justice. The government has also been criticised for its lack of transparency in drafting the decrees and its plan to adopt them through emergency ordinance, which would have made the changes effective immediately.

The protest followed a similar but smaller one organised on January 18, the day the government was reportedly planning to adopt the ordinances.

Thousands of people gathered in University Square in Bucharest, chanting slogans such as “Dragnea, don’t forget, Romania is not yours”, “DNA should come and take you”, “No to pardon”, “PSD, the red plague”, “To the prison, not in the government,” and “Dragnea, don’t forget, we are waiting for your book” - a reference to a much-abused loophole that allows prisoners who write academic books to have their sentences reduced. 

President Iohannis joined the crowd to express his indignation with the planned legislation. “I have come here to University Square like thousands of Romanians to show my indignation. A gang of politicians with legal problems wants to change the legislation in Romania, to weaken the state, but this cannot be accepted,” Iohannis said.

“It is unacceptable that the legislation is being changed so that hundreds of politicians who have problems with the law have clean files and continue wrongdoing,” he added.

Dragnea’s response came on Facebook, where he wrote that the protest was “the beginning of a coup d’etat” and accused the president of leading an unauthorised protest “against the Romanian government, against the Constitutional order and the popular vote on December 11,” and trying to gain political advantages.

“The president was today outside the law, targeting personal political advantages and asking for constitutional aberrations: the withdrawal of some ordinances, mainly of some which have not been adopted. It is the beginning of a coup,” Dragnea wrote.

According to the draft legislation on pardons, which has been published for debate on the justice ministry's website, prison sentences shorter than five years will be fully pardoned, while people over 60, pregnant women and people looking after children under five years old would have their sentences halved.

According to the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the abuse of office offence will be redefined so that it will be a criminal offence only if the damage caused exceeds RON200,000 (€44,500) and the damaged party has made a complaint. Dragnea would be one of the politicians to benefit from the new legislation, as the damage caused in the case in which he has been indicted for instigation to abuse of office stands at RON108,612.

Similar protests were organised in other Romanian cities such as Cluj Napoca, Timisoara and Iasi, as well as in London, Copenhagen, Paris and Rome, according to Hotnews.ro.

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