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Romanian leader refuses to appoint anti-graft prosecutor

19 January 2013, 13:24 CET
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(BUCHAREST) - Romanian President Traian Basescu refused Friday to confirm the appointment of a new anti corruption prosecutor, seen as key to boosting the country's anti-graft credentials in the eyes of the European Union.

Basescu said the selection process had not been transparent, and refused to appoint the candidate put forward by the country's justice minister.

"The main reason is that the selection process lacked transparency and did not encourage qualified candidates to apply", the presidency said in a statement.

The president also rejected the candidate for general prosecutor.

The move is expected to reflect negatively in the next report of the EU, which Romania joined in 2007, on the country's progress in reforming its judiciary and the rule of law, analysts say.

At the same time a draft law to strengthen parliamentary immunity has sparked an outcry in the country where dozens of lawmakers and government officials have been involved in graft scandals in recent years.

The text drawn up by the ruling centre-left Social Liberal Union (USL) stipulates that prosecutors must submit to parliament the "relevant evidence" backing a request to approve the arrest or search of a member of parliament.

It also enables lawmakers to revoke the arrest of an MP, if they deemed the move unjustified.

If this happens, the magistrates' council (CSM), a watchdog of the judiciary's independence, will be notified to take "the requisite steps" against the prosecutor who arrested the MP.

"This text is extremely harmful as it sets up a new shield to protect MPs," Septimiu Parvu, director of the Pro-Democratia group, told AFP.

Twenty-three MPs are under investigation or facing trial mainly over graft, local media said, stressing that lawmakers have in recent months opposed lifting the parliamentary immunity of three colleagues.

The bill creates privileges for lawmakers while intimidating prosecutors and judges," said constitutional law professor Ioan Stanomir.

"The separation of powers is threatened as lawmakers assume investigative and judgement powers," he added.

Basescu also slammed the move and said "any attempt to consolidate parliamentary immunity would be a serious mistake."

The bill should be put to vote next week, days ahead of a key report by the European Commission on the reform of the judiciary and the fight against corruption in Romania.

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