A Council of Europe committee has said it is “alarmed” by the accusations made by the Romanian government against the country’s former chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Laura Kovesi, saying that they “could be politically motivated” to discredit her bid to become the EU’s first public prosecutor.
The statement by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights comes just two days before the third round of negotiations between the EU Council and the Parliament to agree on a nominee to head-up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which is due to be established next year. The Council, which under the EU’s six-month rotating presidency is currently being led by Romania, supports the French candidate, Jean Francois Bonhert, while the European Parliament, has thrown its support behind Laura Kovesi.
The Committee said that the charges of bribery, abuse of office and false testimony brought against Kovesi by the controversial Special Section for the Prosecution of Magistrates “could be aimed at discrediting the former head of DNA (National Anticorruption Directorate), who is one of the three candidates for the leadership of the European Prosecutor”.
The members of the Committee also stressed that Kovesi’s efforts to combat corruption while she was head of the DNA were “highly appreciated” by civil society, the EU and the Council of Europe, and that her dismissal from the institution was the result of political attacks against her by the Romanian government.
The Committee also drew attention to the fact that the establishment of the Special Section for the Investigation of Magistrates has been strongly criticised by the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, as well as by the European Commission in its most recent MCV report.
The Committee urged the Romanian authorities to “examine her case speedily and in line with the Council of Europe’s standards on fair trial, and to drop any charge which might be politically motivated.”
In March Kövesi was charged with bribery, abuse of office and and false testimony by the Special Section for the Investigation of MagistrateS (SIIJ), a controversial new office set up for the purpose of prosecuting magistrates. Kovesi is alleged to have asked a former MP to pay for a private plane to fly an exiled businessman from Indonesia to Romania to face a prison sentence for corruption.
After her hearing at the special prosecutor’s office last month, Kovesi said of the charges that: “It is an attempt to shut me up and harass all of us in the justice system who did our jobs properly.”