Against the backdrop of the recent scandal surrounding the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), which started following the publicly-levelled accusations that anticorruption prosecutors are fabricating evidence in dossiers, an important week is starting, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader being expected to present before the joint Chambers of Parliament the report on the activity of the DNA, DIICOT and Public Ministry, and on Thursday to publicly present the conclusions on the activity of the DNA.
“Before accepting the office of Justice Minister, I discussed with the leaders of the ruling coalition. I received guarantees on the non-interference of the political factor in the activity of the ministry, in the decisions I will take as Justice Minister, something that has been respected and is being respected at present too. I will present before the joint Chambers of Parliament the report on the activity carried out at the level of the Public Ministry, DIICOT, DNA. The presentation of the said report represents an obligation on the part of the Justice Minister. Distinct from the report I will present in Parliament, next Thursday, at an hour that I will announce in useful time, I will hold a press conference in which I will present the contents and the conclusions of the report on the activity of the DNA,” Tudorel Toader stated.
Subsequent to the statements made by Toader, President Klaus Iohannis stated on Thursday evening that “for the time being” he does not see reasons for the dismissal of DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi.
“I notice that the dismissal is an intense preoccupation in the public space. For the time being, honestly, I don’t see reasons for dismissal, but there might be some that I don’t know about and the Justice Minister knows. In this case, the minister will surely come extremely, extremely well documented if he is to demand such a thing. Now, I don’t know reasons for dismissal. (…) I would be surprised for serious and well-grounded reasons for a hypothetical dismissal request to appear like this, overnight,” President Klaus Iohannis stated.
Meanwhile, the statements that DNA Chief Prosecutors Laura Codruta Kovesi, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader and the Romanian Head of State made before the press continue to generate reactions.
PSD’s Dragnea: I’m not disappointed in the Justice Minister, “he has his rhythm.” He’s a professional. Decision will be well-grounded
Social Democratic Party (PSD) President Liviu Dragnea stated on Friday evening that he is not disappointed in Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, stating that when the minister takes a decision concerning the activity of the DNA that decision will be well-grounded.
“I’m not disappointed in the Justice Minister. I know the positions of some colleagues, but this is not a topic that would be decided very quickly and without thorough documentation and preparation. I continue to consider Tudorel Toader a man of good faith, a professional, a man with serious expertise, a serious man, and I believe the decision he will take – I don’t know what that will be – will be well-grounded. I never saw Tudorel Toader announcing or saying something without very serious arguments. I have no kind of disappointment in what concerns Tudorel Toader,” PSD President Liviu Dragnea stated for Antena3, when asked whether he is disappointed in Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, against the backdrop in which the minister is delaying the presentation of a report on the activity and leadership of the DNA.
Liviu Dragnea stated that Tudorel Toader “has his rhythm.”
“He has his rhythm and it so happened now that during those days he was in Japan, on a visit scheduled long ago, but the Prime Minister asked him to return and he did,” Dragnea concluded.
PNL’s Orban: Toader has no reason to go before Parliament until the DNA presents its report
PNL President Ludovic Orban stated on Thursday that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader must present before Parliament the conclusions of the DNA report presented – prior to that – before the Supreme Magistracy Council (CSM) and the Justice Ministry, and not the report per se, pointing out that there is no reason for the Justice Minister to go before Parliament until then.
“I was expecting the Justice Minister to better know the law. I believe he has flown a lot and hasn’t carefully read Articles 79 and 88 of Law 304, because he is not presenting any report before Parliament. According to Articles 79 and 88 on the PICCJ [Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice] and the DNA, he must present before Parliament the conclusions on the report that these institutions must file with the Justice Ministry and the CSM. He has no reason to go before Parliament before these institutions lodge the report with the Justice Ministry and the CSM, he certainly cannot present a report, but only certain conclusions on the report. Still, what he announced is unprecedented, I was very attentive,” Orban told RealitateaTV private broadcaster.
ALDE’s Vosganian: I advise those leading the DNA to abstain from making comments until JusMin presents report
House lawmaker Varujan Vosganian, president of the Iasi branch of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), “advised” the DNA leadership to abstain from making comments until Justice Minister Tudorel Toader presents in Parliament the report on the activity of the Public Ministry, DIICOT and DNA, and emphasised that it would not have been fair for the minister to state his intention in relation to the recent situation first before the press and only then in the Government or before Parliament.
“Of course, we respect the press, but I believe that, procedurally speaking, there was no need for Parliament, or his colleagues in Government, to find out from a press conference what he intends to do. If until now it was considered he was the fan of half-measures and hesitant steps, that was due exclusively to the fact that the Government did not give him the political support he needed and a clear asymmetry appeared between Parliament and Government at the level of the political will in what concerns the judicial reform, this being the reason why Tudorel Toader had this stance that some unfairly considered hesitant,” House lawmaker Varujan Vosganian stated in a press conference.
He said that it is very good that “Minister Tudorel Toader is cautious in what concerns the procedural steps, so that no measure would be thought of as being taken overnight, abusively, as an aggression on the independence of the judiciary.”
At the same time, he “advised” the leadership of DNA to abstain from making comments until after the Justice Minister presents before the joint Chambers of Parliament the report on the activity of the Public Ministry, DIICOT and DNA.
“I advise those who are leading the DNA to abstain from making any comments until he presents the 2017 report. In my opinion, it is a key argument either for them or for those who accuse the DNA’s inefficiency. Until we have this report in which we would see that the activity has improved, there is no point, no persuasive power, no statement from any of the leaders of the National Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office,” the leader of ALDE Iasi said.
At the same time, he criticised the attitude of some anticorruption prosecutors, stating that “it’s not normal to have an opinion about the people being investigated and a different opinion about the prosecutors being investigated.”
“If an investigated person says something you can’t say you don’t believe them because it comes from an investigated person, while if the same investigated person were to make a denunciation that is on the prosecutors’ liking that would be worth taking into account. It’s not normal for a person who is being criminally investigated to be dismissed from all offices, but if a prosecutor is being investigated he is allowed to continue to manage the destinies of people without any kind of hesitation,” House lawmaker Varujan Vosganian said.
On the other hand, Vosganian opined that investigations should restart in the dossiers handled by prosecutors which showed “grave breach of conduct,” mentioning in this context the name of ex-prosecutor Emilian Eva, whom the High Court of Cassation and Justice convicted for passive bribery and acts of commerce incompatible with his office.
PSD leader responds to Iohannis over use of the term ‘lawbreakers’: You can’t accuse someone until a final sentence is ruled
Referring to President Iohannis’s statement that “some lawbreakers want to discredit the DNA,” Deputy Premier Paul Stanescu stated on Friday, in Slatina, that the presumption of innocence should be observed and Laura Codruta Kovesi should resign.
President Klaus Iohannis stated on Thursday that “some lawbreakers” are making a “desperate” and “pathetic” attempt to discredit the DNA, and reaffirmed that this institution and its leadership “are doing a very good job.”
“We have a public scandals once again and I believe this time plenty of people are expecting me to express my opinion on this issue. In my view, things can be summed-up briefly: some lawbreakers are making a desperate attempt to attack and discredit the DNA and this Directorate’s leadership. In my opinion, this attempt is pathetic and unconvincing, and you know my opinion on the DNA’s work, but I take pleasure in repeating it: in my opinion, the DNA and the DNA leadership are doing a very good job, and this attack or this attempted attack on the part of lawbreakers confirms to me that the DNA is doing a good job,” the President stated at the Cotroceni Palace.
Paul Stanescu stated that, by April 1, the European Directive on the presumption of innocence will be implemented in national legislation.
“I wouldn’t necessarily want to comment on what President Iohannis said. The European Directive on the presumption of innocence will immediately enter the debate, the deadline being April 1. I don’t believe you can accuse someone of being a lawbreaker until there is a final and irrevocable court ruling. You’ve seen so many cases of people who were arrested, detained, for months, who were eventually declared innocent. Who fixes a man’s life after these things happen?” the Deputy Premier stated.
Asked whether he is demanding that DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi resign following the scandal that erupted at DNA Ploiesti, Paul Stanescu stated that she should resign on her own initiative.
“I don’t know whether Mrs Kovesi must be dismissed or not, but when such things occur in such an important institution, she should resign, she shouldn’t be asked to do so,” Stanescu concluded.
Florin Iordache, chairman of judicial laws cttee and former JusMin: JusMin cannot “throw” on Parliament’s shoulders the decision regarding the DNA
House lawmaker Florin Iordache (PSD), former Justice Minister in the Grindeanu Government, stated on Friday, in Slatina, that he is waiting for the report assessing the activity of the DNA, report that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader will present next Thursday, adding that the minister will not be able to shift the responsibility to Parliament in what concerns the decision in the Codruta Kovesi case.
Florin Iordache stated in a press conference on Friday, in Slatina, that Tudorel Toader can no longer repeat what he did in the case of the judicial laws, namely shifting the responsibility to Parliament.
“Procedurally and legally, the Justice Minister cannot “throw” the DNA report in the Parliament’s court, like what happened with the judicial laws. If you look at law no.304, he can present a report. That report is not voted or adopted. If we are talking about a dismissal decision, it’s the minister’s unilateral act. Parliament cannot intervene in this dismissal procedure because the law doesn’t allow it to. I too am waiting for him to come up with this assessment, on Thursday, and the only procedural step is that of demanding the dismissal, the CSM and the President’s endorsement. The degree of expectation is very high and I’m waiting to see what Minister Toader tells us,” Iordache stated.
Present at the same press conference, Deputy Premier Paul Stanescu stated that regardless of what the Justice Minister proposes, President Klaus Iohannis will not accept the dismissal of Laura Codruta Kovesi.
“On Thursday evening, the President said a very important thing. That he is very pleased with the way the National Anticorruption Directorate is working. It can probably be demanded, but the dismissal is President Iohannis’s prerogative,” Stanescu said.
Protest with “Tenerife oranges” at Cotroceni Palace. Journalist Malin Bot involved in scuffles
On Saturday, a protest took place at the Cotroceni Palace, after recordings concerning the DNA appeared in the press. People shouted slogans against President Klaus Iohannis. The protest was mainly organised via social networks, where former SRI officer Daniel Dragomir’s Civic Initiative 3.0 organised an event dubbed ‘I’m going to oranges.’
Approximately 100 persons took part in the protest, shouting “Iohannis and the DNA have destroyed Justice” and “DNA without the owl.” Some of the protesters carried oranges.
The anti-presidential protesters were countered by several persons standing on the opposite sidewalk, who sang the national anthem and chanted, in their turn, slogans such as “PSD is the red plague” and “We don’t want to be ruled by thieves.” The group carried a bullhorn with which they tried to enter a dialogue with those protesting against Iohannis.
Some representatives of the #Rezist movement showed up, the two camps getting involved in heated exchanges and scuffles. The gendarmes tried to separate the two camps to avoid conflicts.
Journalist Malin Bot was removed by gendarmes, after he scuffled with the protesters at Cotroceni. “This is an illegal, unauthorised protest. Enforce the law!” Bot told the gendarmes. “You hoodlum, go away!” the protesters shouted back, and law enforcement representatives intervened to prevent an escalation.
“The reason I’m here is to bring this Tenerife orange. If Mr Iohannis was here, I would have offered it to him. I’m asking him to at least try not to make statements that are a kind of logical delirium, to no longer make statements that take us all for fools. I consider myself his Romanian, he must be my President and the President of millions of Romanians who do not consider themselves his Romanians. If everything he does is covering up for Mrs Kovesi because he knows she’s not handling his dossier, we’ll all chip in so he’d stay in Tenerife,” parliamentarian Liviu Plesoianu stated.
The house lawmaker expressed his dissatisfaction with the Justice Minister’s attitude, pointing out: “The only normal decision that the Justice Minister can take is to demand the dismissal of Mrs Kovesi and Mr Lazar. Normally, Mr Lazar should have dealt with the troubles at DNA Ploiesti. They all cover each other’s backs. I believe there is the need for a committee of inquiry into everything that has happened since 2004.”
Prior to that, House lawmaker Liviu Plesoianu (PSD) stated for Antena3 that he will take part in the protest in his “personal capacity, because two evenings ago, in a very bizarre manner, the Cotroceni Hill was the only place in this country where the toxicity of Ploiesti oranges, their deleterious effect on the health of democracy, was not yet know. It’s very strange because apart from there it’s known everywhere. And since I care about the health of Romanians, I’ll go there and eat some original oranges from equatorial countries, so as to give the signal that in this country we should not be afraid to express ourselves when we consider ourselves trampled. I’m going there because I want to have my conscience at ease. I’m not afraid. My symbolic gesture is the following – going at Cotroceni to eat veritable oranges and not counterfeited Ploiesti oranges.”
“An attempt was made to break this protest, it’s a provocation. It’s just that, unlike these gentlemen, we don’t have their money, or network, online databases, the support of the SRI. This morning we decided to take to the streets. It’s not about our number, but about the message. We’re coming out today to say we’re not afraid. We believe any person has the right to a free and fair trial. These abuses must stop. In any normal country, the Head of the DNA should have been suspended at least, the offices of DNA Ploiesti should have been sealed off along with everything they did, the documents, because during this time they will do what they know doing best, they will falsify. (…) I find it abnormal that the Romanian President, instead of being the defender of Romanians, is Mrs Kovesi’s lawyer,” former SRI officer Daniel Dragomir stated.
Protest outside DNA HQ: “Resign! Resign!”
On Sunday, the protest “with oranges” from Cotroceni moved outside the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) headquarters.
Despite being few – only a few dozen persons being present –, the protesters were very vocal and loud, using whistles, vuvuzelas, a bullhorn and carrying placards and flags.
“Resign! Resign!” was the slogan that the protesters chanted, outraged that DNA Chief Prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi is trying to downplay the scandal engulfing the institution after recordings in which DNA prosecutors are accused of falsifying evidence were made public. There were a few young people among the mostly elderly protesters.
“We came to sack Mrs Kovesi! She said a lot of lies. We want fair and just justice. The dossiers are fabricated on command!” one protester said.
The Romanians who took to the streets say they were outraged by the recordings that revealed what was happening within DNA Ploiesti.
Never absent from such public rallies, where he always causes a scandal by trying to provoke and draw attention to himself, journalist Malin Bot appeared at the protest and had a first incident with the gendarmes.
P.S. The message that the protesters who picketed the Cotroceni Palace the day before wanted to convey by holding oranges was in reference to the nickname of controversial DNA Ploiesti prosecutor Mircea Negulescu (currently excluded from the magistracy). Mircea Negulescu is nicknamed “Orange.” The term “protest with Tenerife oranges” was meant to be sarcastic about the recent vacation that the Head of State spent in Tenerife, his departure for Tenerife and absence from the public space for several days afterward being highly commented and ironized on social networks.