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Romania decriminalizes some graft offences

Romania decriminalizes some graft offencesRomania's new leftist government late on Tuesday decriminalized a number of graft offences including some abuse-of-power cases in the biggest diversion on anti-corruption reforms.

Thousands of angry protesters in central Bucharest have called for Romania’s government to resign after it decriminalised a number of graft offences by emergency decree.

Calling politicians “thieves” and “traitors” many people see the move as a massive retreat away from anti-corruption reforms introduced since the country joined the European Union a decade ago.

The protesters demanded an immediate reversal of the controversial decision, which will decriminalize graft cases totaling less than 38,000 euros (40,000 dollars).

In a related decision, the government also plans to pardon convicts sentenced to less than five years and reduce sentences for prisoners over 60 in addition to those having terminal diseases, regardless of their crimes.

Several prosecutors including Laura Codruta Kövesi, see it as a blank cheque for officials to abuse their positions of power.

“It is a project by emergency decree which will very severely affect the anti-corruption fight, basically if this project is adopted, the fight against corruption becomes irrelevant,” she said.

The government claims the measure which takes offences causing less than 44,000 euros of damage, off the statute books, will ease prison overcrowding.

Prosecutors have, however, indicted nearly 2,000 people in cases involving abuse of power that have caused damages totaling up to 1 billion euros in the past three years.

Several leading politicians are under investigation or on trial in abuse-of-power cases, including the leader of the ruling Social Democrats and lower house Speaker Liviu Dragnea.

Opponents say the changes in the law will benefit mainly public figures past and present, caught up in the fight against high-level corruption.

The law now needs to get parliamentary approval.
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