Thousands of people took to the streets of several Romanian cities on Sunday despite freezing cold temperatures to show their support for the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor after the justice minister called for her dismissal.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader on Thursday launched a procedure to dismiss the popular and internationally respected head of the Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) Laura Codruta Kovesi.
Toader accused her of employing “non-constitutional, illegal [and]defamatory” methods in her prosecution of public officials accused of corruption.
In the capital Bucharest, 4,000 people gathered in front of the seat of government, despite heavy snowfall, chanting: “Bandits !, bandits!” and “Tudorel, do something, resign!” and “Codruta, hold on!”
Thousands of people demonstrated in several other cities on Sunday.
Since 2013, Kovesi has been running an anti-corruption agency called DNA, which investigates MPs, ministers and other senior officials, and has revealed conflicts of interest, fraud and abuse of power in one Europe’s most corrupt countries. Dozens of senior officials have been brought to justice.
In another show of support for the embattled DNA chief, 135 of the agency’s prosecutors signed a letter to the Superior Council of Magistracy requesting that the body defend their reputation and the independence of prosecutors.
In a press release, the prosecutors said that in recent years they have faced several attacks from people under investigation or referred to the courts, attacks that have directly affected their lives, because of the “negative emotional repercussions” on themselves, their families and their friends.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who has the last word on the impeachment of prosecutors, came to Kovesi’s defence on Friday and accused Toader of not providing enough reasons for dismissal of the anti-corruption prosecutor.
“You know my opinion,” President Klaus said. “The current leadership of the DNA is doing a very good job,” said Iohannis on February 15. At that time, he said that some individuals with legal issues were trying to “discredit” the DNA”
When the ruling Social Democrats tried a year ago to decriminalize several corruption offenses by decree, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, organising the biggest demonstrations in Romania for decades.