Lia Olguta Vasilescu, the mayor of the southwestern city of Craiova, was brought before Bucharest Court judges on Thursday, prosecutors asking them to place her under 30-day pre-trial arrest, after they detained her for 24 hours on Wednesday evening for passive bribery and money laundering.
The Tribunal of Bucharest dismissed the request of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) to arrest Vasilescu and decided instead to place her under home confinement.
The decision is subject to appeals.
Vasilescu’s first reaction when leaving detention: “What should we, mayors, do now? Not build anything anymore?”
The mayor of Craiova made several statements immediately after leaving detention. Lia Olguta Vasilescu disagrees with the house arrest decision and promised she will appeal. “You don’t have to run after me. We will appeal against the house arrest decision. No good deed goes unpunished. Not even the prosecutor said I took money from somewhere,” Olguta said.
The mayor of Craiova also talked about the conditions at the detention centre, but also about the fact that she is even more popular now, after the DNA detained her for one day. “I had not problems in prison. Everyone treated me well. The conditions do not matter for me. I am building a stadium in Craiova, I am building a hospital, I am renovating apartment buildings. This is how political capital is won. What should we, mayors, do now? Not build anything anymore?” Olguta Vasilescu said.
Reactions after Olguta Vasilescu was detained by DNA
The DNA’s decision to detain Lia Olguta Vasilescu took the leaders of the Social Democrat Party (PSD) by surprise. While on Wednesday they were reserved in statements, on Thursday they reacted to the blow administered by the DNA to one of the party candidates credited with the highest chances of winning the local elections for the city hall of one of the most important cities.
PSD’s Zgonea denies intention to run for the office of Craiova Mayor
PSD Executive President Valeriu Zgonea, Dolj County MP, stated on Thursday that he feels sorry for the Mayor of Craiova, but that he will not replace her in the local elections, Ion Prioteasa or Claudiu Manda being the possible replacements.
“We are very good friends. I am sorry for her family and I am by her side, apart from this I have never commented on the judiciary’s decisions,” Valeriu Zgonea stated.
He said that he does not know who will be nominated as the party’s candidate for the Craiova City Hall, however he pointed out that there are local leaders with significant notoriety.
“I will consult branch president Claudiu Manda and County Council President Prioteasa, they are two very strong options. At one point, before Ms. Vasilescu announced that she wants to run, Mr. Prioteasa was scoring very well in the opinion polls. He has a very good confidence level at county and municipality level now too,” Zgonea said.
Zgonea pointed out that he never expressed an intention to run for the Craiova City Hall.
“I never expressed the intention to run for the office of Craiova Mayor. It’s an honour to be mayor of Craiova, but it’s a decision one cannot take suddenly. It’s not a favourable moment when one of the best mayors you have is detained by the DNA, when the DNA is asking for the detention and arrest of an important former party member,” Zgonea added.
Firea: I am sorry for what is happening to her
PSD Bucharest Interim President Gabriela Firea stated on Thursday that she is sorry for what is happening to Craiova Mayor Lia Olguta Vasilescu, who was detained by DNA, but said she wishes her “good health and freedom.”
“I am very sorry for what is happening to Ms. Lia Olguta Vasilescu. She is a mother, I realise how much the child and the parents of a politician suffer when they see her in handcuffs. We are all waiting for her to be brought before a judge today. We would like her to be free, to be able to defend herself while free. We never opposed the actions of the judiciary, we believe everyone has to be held accountable for one’s deeds, but you can only feel close to a person you know, a colleague in such moments and you can only wish her all the best, health and freedom, because this is the most valuable,” Gabriela Firea stated at the PSD headquarters.
Rovana Plumb: Everyone is surprised, shocked
“Everyone is surprised, shocked and considers this a heavy blow and a great loss because Olguta Vasilescu is a very good administrator,” Rovana Plumb stated at the PSD headquarters.
The PSD Vice President pointed out that she is very sorry for what is happening to Olguta Vasilescu, however the legal proceedings have to follow their course.
“Justice will have its say. Olguta Vasilescu has proved that she is a very good manager, who made great many things for the people of Craiova, this is the explanation for Olguta’s high approval rating among the people of Craiova – 67 percent. Today we will discuss because this has taken us by surprise too,” Rovana Plumb added.
Plumb was asked by journalists whether she considers that DNA has started a persecution against PSD leaders, however she stated she does not want to comment such hypotheses.
UNPR local council member: It’s all too thin
A UNPR member of Craiova’s municipal council resigned on Thursday morning, as a sign of solidarity with Mayor Lia Olguta Vasilescu, stating, in-between tears, that “it’s all too thin” and tht “we are living times when each of us can end up in [the Craiova Mayor’s] situation.”
“I am a father and I’m not saying that someone is perfect. But I’m telling you from my heart, we are living times in which each of us could end up in Ms. Mayor’s situation. It’s inadmissible to end up paying with your freedom and to have your lifetime work destroyed for actions that took place four years ago and that were theoretically known – apartment buildings were renovated in Craiova and so much was done for Craiova and for this city that is blooming with each passing day –, because you are not in a certain camp. What is happening to Mayor Lia Olguta Vasilescu is unacceptable,” council member Mihai Cilibiu stated while crying, news.ro informs.
“It’s all too thin, everything is done by a mayor that brought the highest European grants usage percentage in Craiova, it’s impossible to believe this. So many mayors fell all over the country and I did not imagine Lia Olguta Vasilescu to have it coming. Our colleague. This happened to our colleague Ontanu too, to other mayors too. Unfortunately, in Romania engaging in politics is not a risk, it’s a veritable suicide,” Mihai Cilibiu stated.
Udrea: I will go to the Central Prison as a sign of solidarity with Olguta Vasilescu
MP Elena Udrea says that she will go to the Central Prison as a sign of solidarity with Craiova Mayor Olguta Vasilescu, and in order to protest against the fact that the mayor was taken out handcuffed from the DNA headquarters.
“I am outraged by the way Lia Olguta Vasilescu was taken out handcuffed from the DNA headquarters. What could happen? Could she have fled, could she have attacked the police officers? Once more it is proven that the presumption of innocence and consideration for human dignity, principles Europe is shouting at us to respect, are applied only to the powerful of the day, who obtain the payment of huge damages by television channels or the retrial of some lawsuits, when they claim/consider their image was affected. (…) I will go at the Central Prison, from where I was taken out handcuffed a year ago, in order to prove that there is courage and solidarity in society. The political stripes do not matter, what matters is the need for a normal society without which Romania cannot have a future,” Udrea wrote on Wednesday on Facebook.
She believes that, bearing in mind that this is another case of campaign finance, any politician could be held accountable. “We have yet again a campaign finance case, namely what any politician who ever ran for office could be reproached with. Snitches are not the only ones who can decide a man’s fate! It is in everyone’s power to oppose the mechanism of fear,” she concluded.
Ponta attacks PSD in Vasilescu case: Udrea shouldn’t have been the first to react
In a Facebook posting on Thursday, MP Victor Ponta criticised his party colleagues for not immediately jumping to Olguta Vasilescu’s defence following the DNA prosecutors’ decision to detain her, and wrote that “Udrea really shouldn’t have been the first to react.”
“Better late… But Udrea really shouldn’t have been the first to react!” Ponta wrote on Facebook, also posting two links to news articles about the Social Democrats’ reactions to this case, statements that were made on Thursday, at the PSD headquarters, ahead of the party’s National Standing Bureau meeting.