Romania: Judges hold protests over legal system changes

MarketsAssociated Press

Hundreds of Romanian judges and prosecutors took part in protests around the country Monday to show their opposition to legal changes they say would hamper prosecutions.

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The first demonstrations were held outside courts in the capital, Bucharest, and other cities that included Cluj, Timisoara, Galati, Brasov and Constanta.

The unusual judicial display continued in the evening with a silent protest outside the Bucharest Court of Appeal and outside a court in the central city of Brasov. Many of the participants held papers printed with the oath new judges take vowing to respect Romania's Constitution and laws.

In Cluj, people gave flowers to judges and applauded them outside court, where they held their robes in their arms to symbolize the difficulties they'd have in doing their jobs properly if the amendments, some of which Parliament approved last week, became law.

In a joint statement, prosecutors in Constanta said the proposals "don't just hamper the anti-corruption fight, but (also) the fight against all crime."

Among the proposed changes are a move to ban public statements about investigations and trials, and another to limit the use of video and audio recordings. A further proposal would allow suspects to be present when witnesses are giving testimony.

Prosecutors say that could mean the victim of a pedophile being obliged to give evidence in front of their perpetrator.

One agency charged with prosecuting organized crime and terrorism said last week that 1,200 drug trafficking cases would be halted if the amendments became law.

Parliament approved another amendment Monday which limits the president's role in the appointment of top prosecutors. Under the revision, the president will only be able to block the appointment of a prosecutor once.

Currently, there is no limit to the number of times the head of state can derail the appointment of a certain prosecutor.

President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the proposals, can send them back to Parliament.

In recent weeks, thousands of Romanians have protested the proposals, saying they will make it harder to punish high-level corruption.