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Romanian judges say new laws will stymie prosecutions

A man takes part in a flash mob in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press)
A man takes part in a flash mob in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press)
Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania – Hundreds of Romanian judges and prosecutors protested around the country on Monday over planned modifications to the legal system they say will hamper prosecutions.

The first demonstrations were held outside courts in cities including the capital, Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara, Galati, Brasov and Constanta.

In the evening, hundreds more held a silent protest outside the Bucharest Court of Appeal and outside a court in the central city of Brasov. Many held a piece of paper with the oath judges take when they enter the profession, vowing to respect the constitution and Romanian laws.

In the city of Cluj, people gave flowers to judges and applauded them outside court, where they held their robes in their arms to symbolize the difficulties they’d have in doing their jobs properly if the amendments, some of which Parliament approved last week, became law.

In a joint statement, prosecutors in Constanta said the proposals “don’t just hamper the anti-corruption fight, but (also) the fight against all crime.”

Among the proposed changes are a move to ban public statements about investigations and trials, and another to limit the use of video and audio recordings. A further proposal would allow suspects to be present when witnesses are giving testimony.

Prosecutors say that could mean the victim of a pedophile being obliged to give evidence in front of their perpetrator.

One agency charged with prosecuting organized crime and terrorism said last week that 1,200 drugs trafficking cases would be halted if amendments became law.

Parliament approved another amendment later Monday which limits the president’s role in the appointment of top prosecutors. Under the amendment, the president will only be able to block the appointment of a prosecutor once. Currently, there is no limit to the amount of times the head of state can derail the appointment of a certain prosecutor.

President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the proposals, can send them back to Parliament.

In recent weeks, thousands of Romanians have protested against the proposals, saying they will make it harder to punish high-level corruption.

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