Thousands of Prostesters Rally Against Romanian Government's Prison Pardons
Jan 23, 2017 11:37 AM EST
More than 10,000 people have marched through the capital of Romania and other cities to protest against the government's proposal of pardoning thousands of prisoners in the country.
The protesters gathered on Sunday at University Square in Bucharest, while a thousand others protested in the western city of Cluj and in Iași in the north. Among them were the elderly people and parents who were carrying their children on their shoulders or in their arms. They later broke through the police lines, heading towards the government headquarters.
The prime minister of Romania, Sorin Grindeanu, wants to pass an emergency ordinance to pardon prisoners, which he believes would essentially help ease overcrowding in prisons. But critics say that it would surely reverse the anti-corruption fight in the country, and more towards, setting free government allies convicted of corruption without the fullest justice. They also added that the proposal should be debated in the parliament.
In Bucharest, protesters exclaimed saying, "We want democracy, with thieves in prison." They also named the ruling Social Democratic party "the red plague".
The crowd began cheering after Klaus Johannis, the current president of Romania, who turned up at the protest. He is a government critic who strongly supports the anti-corruption fight of the nation. Iohannis said regarding the proposal, "A gang of politicians who have problems with the law want to change the legislation system and weaken the state of law... Romanians are rightly indignant."
Donald Simionoiu, an art director who shares the same view, puts it in his own words - that the ulterior motive of the proposal "hides other things". Its worth noticing how such ordinance would benefit politician-turned-offenders like Liviu Dragnea, the Social Democratic party chairman who was given a two-year suspension of prison for electoral fraud; and media mogul Dan Voiculescu, who is currently serving a 10-year imprisonment over money laundering.
The justice ministry of Romania published a detailed draft of the proposal on Wednesday, which was widely criticised by Romania's top prosecutors, magistrates and politicians from the opposition parties. Excluding those convicted of sexual crimes, violence or corruption, the proposal would primarily affect those with less than five years sentence.
Prisoners over 60, pregnant women and people with young children would see their sentences halved regardless of their convictions.
The government estimates 2,500 prisoners would be freed. The prisoners, including elderly men, pregnant women and juveniles would see their sentences halved regardless of their convictions.