President Klaus Iohannis revealed on Monday evening that he called Vice Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea to resign following the death of a policeman in his motorcade last Tuesday.
“Given the fact that the public opinion is seriously concerned about the last week’s events – the accident that occurred, and the unfortunate death of a policeman in the line of duty, I have intervened yesterday [Sunday] and subsequently I have invited vice premier Oprea to a discussion today, because I wanted to get additional details and explanations. We had this discussion this evening. I have advised Mr. vice PM Oprea to resign,” the President said in a press conference at the Cotroceni Palace.
Under public opinion pressure, Vice PM Gabriel Oprea makes first statements on policeman Bogdan Gigina’s death six days after the accident
The Minister of Home Affairs, Gabriel Oprea, said on Monday, during his first appearance almost a week after policeman Bogdan Gigina’s death, that he had chosen to keep silence out of respect for the family of the victim and said he had not seen the accident and that he had only found out about it after driving past the area and that he had done everything in his power to save the policeman.
“Following the request of President Klaus Iohannis, I will answer some of the questions that have been launched publicly, said Oprea.
Out of respect for his family, I chose not to make public statement. I did not see the accident, I did not know there had been an accident
“A tragedy happened on the evening of 20 October: the policeman Bogdan Gigina lost his life in mission and nothing that we may say could ever alleviate the pain of his parents, wife and family who are living dramatic moments. Out of respect for the family of the victim, I chose not to make public statements immediately after the accident or before the funerals.
But the Bucharest Police did issue a press release giving information on the circumstances of the accident, itinerary and other such details that are the Police responsibility. In the same release, the Police also noted that criminal investigations had been opened, which meant that, after that point, we would be unable to give any more answers or information to the public. As far as I am concerned, I chose to be next to Bogdan Gigina’s family, personally present my condolences to the mourning family and not give in to the temptation of making statements that could have publicly exonerated me from the irresponsible allegations made by political leaders or various other speculations,” Deputy PM underlined.
“I have chosen to make sure that Gigina’s family knows how much I, all of us here at the Ministry regret the loss. I chose to give priority to the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs and subordinated institutions make available to the prosecutors all the information they require and that, all this time, we comply with the rules and not communicate on the circumstances, descriptions or details on facts that are under prosecutors’ investigation.
At some point, the convoy came to a stop. I did not see the accident, I didn’t know there had been an accident. I only saw the police car stop and the two policemen get off and run in a certain direction. One of them signed to us to move and my car drove away. The police car and the two policemen stayed there. Only after we drove past the scene of the accident did I learn what had happened. I am deeply grieved over this loss, but I do know I have done everything that was humanly possible at that time to save Bogdan’s life,” Gabriel Oprea added.
“As far as I am concerned, the speculations suggesting that, in my activity, I broke the law or used the traffic escort apparatus illegally are unsubstantiated,” he concluded.
After his statement, Gabriel Oprea left without taking any questions from the press.
Minister Gabriel Oprea’s statement comes almost a week after the accident where the policeman Bogdan Gigina lost his life while escorting the minister’s official convoy, in the context where the civil society, the head of state and political leaders have asked him for explanations on his entitlement to an official convoy. After the accident, the civil society and several political leaders have urged Minister Gabriel Oprea to resign all political positions, arguing that he abused the right to have an official convoy on the day of the accident.
After the accident where the policeman Bogdan Gigina lost his life, several questions have been publicly asked pending an answer from Home Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea, including on his entitlement to official convoy and the place of origin and his destination on the day of the accident and if, under rain conditions, the motorcycle escort was still permitted.
According to the Road Code enforcement Regulation, Traffic Police teams are only supposed to company official convoys for the president of the republic, speaker of the Senate, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and prime-minister of the Government. Minister may be accompanied by Traffic Police ‘only under exceptional circumstances requiring the official to travel somewhere as a matter of urgency’.
The first formal answer regarding the death of the policeman Bogdan Gigina, who was accompanying Minister Gabriel Oprea’s official convoy, only appeared on Sunday. MAI says the workers of the institution, including the minister, were unable to present details on the matter before the investigation is over.
‘Answering the mass-media requests regarding the circumstances of the accident on the evening of 20 October this year, where the policeman Bogdan Cosmin Ginina lost his life, the Information and Public Relations Department is making the following statement: The Bucharest Tribunal Prosecutor’s Office decided on 20 October this year to open an investigation into the causes and circumstances of the accident. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, regarding the prosecutor’s competence, ‘the prosecutor conducts and directly controls the criminal investigation activity of the judicial police and special criminal investigation bodies under the law’, MAI states in a press release dispatched on Sunday, five days after the accident.
The Ministry of Home Affairs also says ‘it fully complies with the existing legislation in the field and gives active support to all institutions empowered to solve the matter’.
Oprea contradicts Police release
Whilst he refused to answer questions hat would have probably put him in difficulty, Oprea ended up putting himself in yet another difficult situation after is public statement on Monday.
At first, he said it was ‘a travel for professional purposes’, but the law only allows an official convoy for special travels. That would be a first admission to the illegal use of the official convoy.
Afterwards, Gabriel Oprea contradicted the Police communiqué dated 22 October. ‘At some point, the convoy came to a sudden stop. I did not see the accident, a policeman signed to us to drive on. I found out what had happened at destination, I contacted SMURD and we did everything that was possible to save him. Unfortunately, it was not possible’, said the deputy prime-minister.
On the other hand, the Police release says something different: ‘Immediately after the accident, the official convoy stopped and measures were taken to mobilise the medical teams to give the first aid to the victim, who was transported to the Bucharest Emergency University Hospital. The Ministry of Home Affairs communicated with Secretary of State Raed Arafat and the other MAI decision-makers to have the SMURD teams urgently intervene and provide permanent information on the developments. The authorities remained in touch with the SMURD teams and with the University Hospital, and the minister of home affairs was permanently informed’.
Ponta: Politically speaking, it’s a very good lesson to Oprea
Premier Victor Ponta said at the Social Democratic Party (PSD) headquarters on Monday, referring to the dead policemen case, that he could not comment on the situation as it was a case investigated into by the prosecutors. At the same time, he noted that, ‘politically, it is a very good lesson to Oprea’.
‘Being a case investigated into by the prosecutors, I am under a CSM ban. I may not even comment on my own situation because, if I did, I would hurt the independence of justice, all the more so about another case pending before the prosecutors’.
Strictly politically, I believe this to be a very good lesson to all of us and to Oprea. I remember that Klaus Iohannis would call him over every morning to tell him to break the coalition and that he would be appointed as prime-minister. Then Mrs. Gorghiu would visit the Ministry of Home Affairs for coffee, then Predoiu would make some odes in the press’, Victor Ponta said before the Social Democrat Party (PSD) National Standing Bureau meeting.
Asked if Alina Gorghiu, co-president of the National Liberal Party (PNL), had been to the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior (MAI), Ponta said: ‘Of course, before the no-confidence vote’.
PM Ponta called to give account on official convoys
The leaders of the Chamber of Deputies has approved the request made by PNL’s parliamentary group that, the following Monday, during the ‘Government Hour’, Prime-Minister Victor Ponta should present the responsibility of the Executive for the compliance with the Road Code and the use of Traffic Police for escorting officials.
Liviu Dragnea: ‘Question on dismissing Oprea should be addressed to the prime-minister’
PSD President Liviu Dragnea said on Monday that he didn’t want to politicise the case of the policeman Bogdan Gigina and that the question on dismissing Gabriel Oprea should be addressed to Prime-Minister Victor Ponta.
‘Here there are two aspects. One aspect regarding the legality, which I am not going to comment on because it wouldn’t be normal for me to comment on, but I too believe that the public wants some answers on responsibilities very soon, on who is guilty, if anyone is. I too have the same point of view Mr. Oprea had – no one is above the law and we do not wish to support anyone if found responsible during the investigation. The second aspect is one pertaining to honour. As I have seen Mr. Oprea lately, I know and he also said he was a man of honour. The question on resignation should be addressed to Mr. Gabriel Oprea, the question about dismissal should be addressed to Prime-Minister Victor Ponta’, Dragnea said after the meeting of PSD’s National Standing Bureau.
Dragnea said the subject would also be discussed on the ruling collation, but he stressed he didn’t want to politicise the tragedy.
Asked when he needed the official convoy when he had been deputy prime-minister, Dragnea said: ‘Never, because I didn’t use it’.
Dead motor policeman case in the attention of foreign media
The protest on Sunday, bringing together hundreds of people who urged Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea to resign office following the death of motor policeman Bogdan Gigina who was riding in his official convoy has got the attention of the foreign media.
The Associated Press write in an article taken over by several foreign publications that hundreds of people protested in Bucharest and that President Klaus Iohannis had called upon top officials to come out and talk about the matter. The quoted source reminds that, on Sunday, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said that it would not make any comments on the death of the policeman Bogdan Gigina while the investigation was still in progress. The motor policeman lost his life on 20 October after falling with his bike in a hollow. AP notes Gigina was riding in an official convoy escorting Home Affairs Minister Gabriel Oprea.
“Hundreds of people protested in the Romanian capital on Sunday and the president demanded that top officials address public anger over the on-duty death of a police motorcyclist. The Interior Ministry said Sunday that, pending an investigation, it would not comment on the death of policeman Bogdan Gigina, who died after driving his motorcycle into a hole on Oct. 20. Gigina was in a motorcade easing a route in Bucharest for Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea”, reads the AP story.
The source states that President Klaus Iohannis had called upon PM Victor Ponta and Oprea himself to address the situation.
“President Klaus Iohannis called on Prime Minister Victor Ponta and Oprea to address the situation. Those at Sunday’s demonstration in Bucharest called for Oprea’s resignation. Many Romanians think that government ministers abuse their positions by overusing motorcades, which often block traffic in the busy capital. Some 300 motorcyclists drove through Bucharest late Saturday in solidarity with Gigina’s family, and hundreds of others have protested his death on social media. Ponta criticized opposition politicians and journalists on Saturday, saying they were using a tragedy for political gain”, the news agency further says.
Deadly pitfall by fault of authorities
Antena 3 TV on Sunday presented a series of documents which, according to the station, prove the ‘guilt for the criminal hole, where the policeman Bogdan Gigina lost his life while riding his motorcycle in Gabriel Oprea’s official convoy.
‘Those craters were not properly secured as the law says they should be and we cannot play political games at the expense of a family’s tragedy’, TV host Mihai Gadea said during his live show.
‘There are murderers in this country and I believe they are able to dig huge holes’ and ‘no one has spoken about those cases’.
Antena 3 TV presented the agreements for digging and filling the holes and stressed the fact that the works should have been completed before the time of the accident, claming it on the contractors.