New disclosures about controversial Hayssam transcript

Several central newspapers yesterday continued making new disclosures about the leaked transcript of a 2005 private conversation between convicted terrorist Omar Hayssam and then-presidential aide Constantin Degeratu. The transcript was made public last week and hinted, among others, that Degeratu delivered a message from President Traian Basescu to Hayssam, advising the Syrian to leave the country and vowing to support him. Both Basescu and several leaders of the Democrat Liberal Party said earlier this week that the recording of the conversation had been done illegally.

Daily ‘Romania libera’ reported yesterday that the meeting between Degeratu, who was Basescu’s adviser on national security issues, and Hayssam, who was at the time under arrest for orchestrating the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq in March 2005, had been arranged by then Prosecutor General Ilie Botos and his deputy, Marcel Sanpetru. The meeting was held at Hayssam’s request, after the Syrian sent several requests in this direction to Basescu, claiming he was holding information crucial to national security, the newspaper said. Hayssam was sentenced for terrorism in absentia, as he fled the country three years ago.

The meeting was held on September 9, 2005 at the General Prosecutor’s Office, reportedly in the office of prosecutor Ciprian Nastasiu, who was handling Hayssam’s case at the time. According to the newspaper, the discussion between the two was recorded although Hayssam had specifically asked prosecutors not to record it. Degeratu also had no information that the talks had been recorded, the publication said.

Sources quoted by the daily suggested that the parts of the conversation made public were edited so as to contain compromising information about President Basescu. The transcripts were probably made public through PSD Bucharest leader Marian Vanghelie, who reportedly obtained important parts of the Interior Ministry’s intelligence department while Social-Democrat Dan Nica was interior minister. The newspaper also notes that Hayssam was known for his close connections with PSD leaders such as Ion Iliescu, Adrian Nastase, Viorel Hrebenciuc and others and that he often gave money to leading party members.

Another central daily, ‘Jurnalul National,’ quoted Ciprian Nastasiu as saying that the meeting did not take place in his office, as it was speculated. The daily also suggested that the illegal recording could have been made by the intelligence services, but it is not known exactly by what service. Daily ‘Cotidianul’ suggested that the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) might be behind it. The newspaper said that the leaked recording might be a way for Nastasiu to get his revenge, after he was sanctioned and dismissed following his work on the Hayssam case. Nastasiu, whose wife works at the SRI, was the one who asked that Hayssam be released on medical grounds, thus paving the way to his escape, the newspaper underlined.

Later yesterday, Antena 3 reported that ‘Jurnalul National’ had obtained ‘an explosive’ document in the case – a letter written by Hayssam to doctor Mohamad Yassim, which at a certain point represented the Romanian state in negotiations with the journalists’ kidnappers. The letter only deepens suspicion that Basescu was involved in the kidnap case in order to capitalize his image, the newspaper alleges.

PNL asks Presidency to tell when Degeratu will come at the Defence Commission

Liberal Deputy George Scutaru on Thursday asked the Presidential Administration to announce, as soon as possible, the day when counselor Constantin Degeratu will comply with the demand made by the Defence Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and will come for hearings over the Omar Hayssam affair. “I would not want to believe that the reason for the delay is actually determined by finding a pretext to justify General Degeratu’s absence. (…) I hope the presence of General Degeratu will bring the necessary clarifications about the talk he had with Omar Hayssam, otherwise we might think that General Degeratu has something to hide when he avoids giving the information needed by the deputies of the Defense Commission,” Scutaru told Mediafax. The interim minister of the Interior, Vasile Blaga, and presidential adviser Constantin Degeratu did not come for the hearings requested by the Defence Commission of the Chamber of Deputies about the cases of DGIPI and Hayssam, respectively, and the Commission rescheduled their hearings for next week.

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