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January 18, 2022

“Convict-writers” scandal: Justice Minister Pruna asks ANP Director to resign following “haemorrhage” of books written in penitentiaries

Justice Minister Raluca Pruna stated on Thursday morning that the suspension of the article of law that stipulated the reduction of prison sentences by 30 days for each book written behind bars has an effect similar to its abrogation, an abrogation that was not possible given the opposition of some members of the Government. The Minister pointed out that she asked Catalin Bejan, Director of the National Penitentiary Administration (ANP), to resign as a result of the irregularities that took place during his tenure, but he refused.

Minister Raluca Pruna considers that the suspension of the article of law concerned has put an end to “this haemorrhage” of books written in jail.

“What happened yesterday has the same effect as an abrogation. At this moment, this provision no longer applies. There were opinions that an abrogation would be a far too hasty measure given the fact that we do not have an impact assessment on what scientific papers mean. It will be carried out jointly with the Education Ministry and the universities. There is a working group proposal which says that instead of a teacher or lecturer carrying out the scientific assessment, the latter should be carried out at department level. I am waiting for the Education Minister to tell us, jointly with the universities, how this assessment will be carried out. The most important thing is that we have put a stop to this haemorrhage of scientific papers in penitentiaries,” the Justice Minister pointed out.

Asked what will happen beyond September 1, Raluca Pruna stated that the Government would most likely issue an emergency ordinance that would end up in Parliament.
“It’s premature to say. It depends on the results of this impact assessment and on advisability. We also have to see the expenses generated by the act of determining whether a book is scientific or not, and it remains to be seen whether scientific research should be carried out in the penitentiary system or in academic research centre instead. All of these things will be taken into account and we will see in September. (…) In September, regardless of the solution, the Government will probably adopt another emergency ordinance, which would then end up in Parliament,” Raluca Pruna added.

“I asked Penitentiary Administration director to resign one month ago”

Justice Minister Raluca Pruna said Thursday that he asked the director of the National Penitentiary Administration Catalin Bejan to resign, but he refused.
“I can tell you that I asked him to resign, but he said he does not understand to step down. I asked him to resign one month ago,” Pruna said at the main offices of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM).

She added that the assessment of the ANP director’s activity is ready now, but it is an annual procedure and all she can do about it is to assess his activity for a short time.
“I have finished the assessment of the ANP Director’s activity and I have to confess that I was wrong to make haste. The assessment is an annual procedure and all I could do was a partial assessment that covered the time I was in office in 2015, meaning a month and a half. I can tell you that my predecessor rated as excellent the activity of ANP in the first 10 and a half months of 2015,” she explained.

Regarding the explanations that Bejan gave for the very large of number of scientific books written under his term in office by inmates to get their sentences reduced, Pruna said she does not comment on her conversation with Bejan.

“I guess the existence of an inspection by the Prime Minister’s Audit Corps and also of an investigation by the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) say it all about how things worked in this affair,” Pruna added.

Asked if the ANP Director can be fired, Pruna said, “We do not know if that is possible based on the report of the Audit Corps because we have no findings so far (…). Based on my personal assessment, my rating is irrelevant because in the end it is about averaging. Since for 10 and a half months his assessment was excellent, not just very good, what I say is irrelevant.”

Pruna admits there are many “factual errors” in CVM technical report

Justice Minister Raluca Pruna on Thursday admitted that there is a significant number of factual errors in the technical report under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) because of a huge volume of information processed.

“The political report passes through the board of commissioners and it is approved as an expression of will (…), being politically assumed, and then there is a report drawn up at a technical level not assumed by the commissioners. I admit there are many factual errors in that report,” Pruna told a plenary session of the Supreme Council of Magistrates (CSM).
She added that the errors are the result of some persons and institutions in Romania being overzealous.

“Why do we have factual errors? Because there is, so to say, a competition in the Romanian society, between institutions and individuals who every time when the technical board calls provide documents of one hundred, five hundred pages and the result is that someone ends up on a table in Brussels with heaps of documents that no other member state provides. And so people make a selection out of a bunch of documents that inherently can include factual errors,” Pruna explained.

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