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Monday 23 October 2017

Romanian government urged to abandon plan to pardon thousands of prisoners

Protesters shout slogans outside government headquarters in Bucharest on Sunday (AP)
Protesters shout slogans outside government headquarters in Bucharest on Sunday (AP)

Romania's president has urged the government to scrap a proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners, a move which has led to massive protests.

President Klaus Iohannis spoke after tens of thousands of people marched through capital Bucharest and other cities on Sunday to protest the initiative, which critics say could reverse anti-corruption efforts.

It was the third large-scale protest to erupt after premier Sorin Grindeanu requested an emergency ordinance allowing the government to pardon prisoners to ease overcrowding in jails.

On Monday, Mr Iohannis posted a message on Facebook urging the government again to drop the initiative and said: "The voice of the people can no longer be ignored."

The German embassy in Bucharest said on Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Mr Iohannis on Friday, saying "diluting the anti-corruption fight and making the rule of law a relative thing" would send "an absolutely wrong signal".

Critics say the proposal could benefit party allies convicted of corruption including the chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea, who was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence for vote-rigging in April 2016, which bans him from being prime minister.

Romania's top prosecutor has also criticised the plan, which magistrates say should be debated in Parliament.

It would primarily affect people serving sentences of less than five years, except those convicted of sexual or violent crimes.

Prisoners aged over 60, pregnant women and inmates with young children would see their sentences halved regardless of the charges on which they were convicted.

The government says its proposal would lead to the release of 2,500 prisoners. Prison authorities estimate 3,700 prisoners could be released.

AP

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