Romania justice minister quits over corruption bill protests

Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache. Photo: 9 February 2017 Image copyright AP
Image caption Florin Iordache insists that "all that I've done was legal"

Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache has resigned, after a government decree to reduce penalties for corruption triggered mass protests.

But Mr Iordache, who had drawn up the bill, insisted that "all that I've done was legal".

Bowing to pressure, the government last week scrapped the decree that would have shielded many politicians from prosecution for corruption.

However, some protesters want the entire leftist cabinet to quit.

Earlier this week President Klaus Iohannis warned parliament that "the resignation of a minister will not be enough".

The demonstrations - attracting hundreds of thousands of people - have been the country's largest since the fall of communism in 1989.

The controversial bill had been due to come into effect on 10 February.

The justice ministry has been instructed to draft a new law to tackle the issues raised by the original decree, and to initiate a wide public debate.

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The constitutional court has now decided not to assess the legal validity of the decree, as it was scheduled to do, as it has already been cancelled.

It would have decriminalised abuse of power offences where sums of less than €44,000 (£38,000; $47,500) were involved.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protesters have been holding mass rallies for nearly a week

One immediate beneficiary would have been Liviu Dragnea, head of the governing Social Democrats (PSD), who faces charges of defrauding the state of €24,000.

The government had earlier argued that the changes were needed to reduce prison overcrowding and align certain laws with the constitution.

But critics saw it as a way for the PSD to absolve officials convicted or accused of corruption.

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