Fri, Jun 22, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Ex-Romania PM tries to kill self

CORRUPTION:Adrian Nastase shot himself in the throat after the Supreme Court rejected his appeal against a jail sentence. He is alive and conscious, his lawyer said

AFP, BUCHAREST

Romania’s former prime minister Adrian Nastase attempted suicide on Wednesday, hours after the Supreme Court threw out his appeal against a two-year jail sentence over corruption.

Medical sources said Nastase shot himself in the throat, but his lawyer said he was still alive and conscious.

“He is OK. He is conscious and has opened his eyes,” lawyer Ion Cazacu told journalists.

“I saw a man who wants to fight for his life,” he added.

Mediafax news agency said doctors would operate on Nastase to remove the bullet stuck in his throat.

“I hope he will recover,” Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta told journalists after visiting his predecessor in hospital.

Earlier on Wednesday, the country’s highest court rejected his appeal against a jail sentence in a graft trial closely monitored by the EU.

Nastase, 61, who headed a Social Democrat government from 2000 to 2004, was convicted for siphoning off funds totaling about 1.5 million euros (US$1.8 million) for his failed presidential election campaign in 2004.

Prosecutors said public institutions and private companies were pressured into taking part in a 2004 construction contest with participation fees passing through several accounts before ending up paying for Nastase’s presidential campaign posters.

Nastase, who was not present in court, had 24 hours to turn himself in to the police for his imprisonment.

However, prosecutors said late on Wednesday that Nastase had “tried to commit suicide.”

The Mediafax agency said two policemen had entered his home to hand him the arrest warrant and escort him to prison, when Nastase asked to be allowed to get some books and left the room. Seconds later he shot himself and was rushed to hospital from his residence.

Nastase has always denied the charges against him, insisting he was victim of a “political trial.”

Having exhausted the last legal recourse in Romania, one of Nastase’s lawyers, Lucian Bolcas, told Realitatea TV that his client planned to appeal the verdict at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

Nastase is the most senior figure condemned in Romania since the fall of former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

He is described by analysts as the political mentor of Ponta.

“This verdict is opening a new era for Romanian justice in which judges are no longer afraid of condemning powerful people,” said Laura Stefan, an anti-corruption expert for the think tank Expert Forum.

“It will make politicians think twice when they use their political attributions and the budget they are allocated for their personal interest. This is a very strong warning” against graft at top level, she added.

“The verdict marks a very important turning point for the independence and the integrity of the Romanian judiciary,” envoys said.

Romania’s judiciary has been under close scrutiny from the European Commission since 2007, with Brussels insisting on more efforts to fight high-level corruption in the former communist country.

“I think everything that has been done in the past years to reform the Romanian justice system is now bearing fruit,” Stefan said.

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