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Romanian lawmakers vote to give themselves more immunity

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(BUCHAREST) - Romanian lawmakers on Tuesday approved a contentious bill strengthening their parliamentary immunity, in a country where dozens of politicians and government officials have been involved in recent graft scandals.

In the vote, 309 lawmakers and senators were in favour of the law change, 56 were against it, while two abstained.

The bill, drawn up by the ruling centre-left Social Liberal Union (USL), has sparked an outcry among several non-governmental organisations, who call it unfair and a departure from the principle of equality under the law.

Some requirements were removed from the draft, including a measure that would have made prosecutors submit "relevant evidence" to parliament before getting approval to search or arrest a lawmaker.

Still, the new rules allow politicians to revoke the arrest of colleague.

According to local media, 23 lawmakers are currently under investigation or facing trial, mainly in graft cases.

Media have also reported that lawmakers in recent months have opposed lifting the parliamentary immunity of three colleagues.

The adoption of the bill comes just days before Brussels publishes a report on Romania's judicial reforms and the country's fight against corruption.

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