Update: Constitutional Court asks President to dismiss anti-corruption head Kovesi

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The Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) has ruled on Wednesday that there is an institutional conflict between the Government and the Presidency, after the Executive had notified the court over a disagreement prompted by the fact that president Klaus Iohannis had denied to dismiss the chief prosecutor of the National Anti-corruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi, as the Justice minister had requested.

Today, CCR had ruled by a majority of votes that there is a conflict on this issue, thus favouring the Government.

Laura Codruta Kovesi should have been recalled by the President,” CCR head Valer Dorneanu said, as quoted by Digi24.

In the official press release, CCR argues that the head of state is to issue the decree to recall DNA chief prosecutor from office.

According to the constitutional judges, the law 303/2004 says that the Justice minister is acting within some legal strict restrictions which justify the action of recalling a prosecutor from office. ”According to article 94 of the Constitution, the Romanian President has no discretionary power within the recall procedure, but only the authority of checking the regular basis of the procedure. It results that the prerogative of the Romanian President to recall the prosecutor from the top position is exclusively circumscribed to a regularity check of the procedure. Therefore, the Romanian President has no constitutional authority to give opportunity arguments related to the recalling proposal, which is initiated by the Justice minister, according to the law. Or, under the current circumstances, Romanian President has refused to issue a decree to recall DNA chief prosecutor from office, on grounds of opportunity, and not on grounds of legality, which has prompted a gridlock on exerting the authority of the Justice minister on the activity of the prosecutors,” reads the Constitutional Court press release.

Earlier in the day, before the CCR ruling, President Iohannis stated that „no matter what the Court rules, I will wait for the motivation, I will read it and act accordingly.”

Justice minister Toader has asked for Kovesi’s recall on February 22, accusing her of 22 deeds, among which there is also the investigation probing into the circumstances that the controversial GEO 13 had been issued to amend the justice laws, the lack of an adequate reaction in the case of the alleged abuses of DNA Ploiesti, as well as that she has affected Romania’s image through misleading the European bodies.

President Iohannis back then retorted that he would not Ok the request to dismiss Kovesi, arguing the Justice minister’s arguments had not convinced him.

Reactions

Reacting on the CCR’s ruling, Justice minister Tudorel Toader said the decision is capitalizing the constitutional principle according to which prosecutors are carrying out their activity under the authority of the Justice minister. Toader added that the head of state has no legal authority to evaluate the professional and managerial competences of the high-ranking prosecutors, unlike the Justice minister.

The Public Ministry (Romania’s Prosecutor General Office) has also retorted, saying in a press release that it has taken note of the CCR’s ruling and that it waits for the motivation.

While PNL spokesperson Ionel Danca argues that the CCR ruling is practically subordinating the head of state to the Justice minister, USR deputy Ion Stelian, also member of the special committee on justice laws, has said that President Iohannis might not take account of the CCR ruling if he is forced to recall Kovesi.

In his turn, judge Cristi Danilet, former member of the Superior Council of Magistracy, said he is surprised by the decision and that he hadn’t expected it. “In my view, the Justice minister has a role in appointing the DNA chief prosecutor, not in recalling. Practically, at this moment we don’t know anymore what is CSM’s and the President’s role in this,” Danilet argued.

On the other side, the representatives of the ruling power hailed the decision ruled by the constitutional judges. PSD senator Serban Nicolae says that, in case the President refuses to dismiss the anti-graft head Kovesi, a serious discussion about impeachment might be initiated, as the President has broken the Constitution.

Former justice minister, Florin Iordache, chairman of the special committee on justice laws, says that the CCR ruling can be summed up to three words: ”Codruta, go home”.

The Senate speaker, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, also said that the anti-graft chief prosecutor should resign after this decision and, accusing her of having ”the mentality of a communist prosecutor in the 50s”, who ”should not hold public offices”.

Ex-president Basescu: Iohannis has no time limit to take a decision

Former president Traian Basescu, also known as an opponent of the anti-graft chief prosecutor Kovesi, although he was the one who had nominated her at the DNA helm in the first place, said that Kovesi should have resigned a long time ago, and thus Iohannis would have been spared of this situation.

However, Basescu says that Iohannis has no time to take a decision. ”The President can reflect on this matter as long as it is necessary (…) he has no time limit, he can resort to a red herring,” Basescu told Romania TV.

In his view, the CCR ruling is ”a serious error” which destroys the presidential institution. Asked if Kovesi should have resigned, the former head of state replied: ”She should have resigned a long time ago, it seems she is not characterized by common sense, for she would have also spared the president to get into such a situation.

However, later on, Basescu posted another statement on Facebook, saying that the CCR ruling is ”a rare villainy”, which ”had turned back the judiciary back to the 2004”.

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