Romania Pres. Seeks to Annul Graft Law

Romania Pres. Seeks to Annul Graft Law

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Romania's president said Thursday he would ask judges to declare unconstitutional a government decree that dilutes what qualifies as corruption, after hundreds of thousands protested against the measure.

President Klaus Iohannis said Thursday that he would take the emergency decree to the Constitutional Court, which is the last legal resort to stop the law.

The government passed an emergency ordinance early Wednesday to decriminalize cases of official misconduct if the funds involved are less than 200,000 lei ($47,800).

Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two evenings. Interior Minister Carmen Dan said 200,000 took to the streets in Bucharest and in dozens other towns across the country late Wednesday, in one of the biggest protests since communism ended in the country in 1989.

Business Environment Minister Florin Jianu announced his resignation Thursday, saying he disagreed with the government's stance.

Justice Minister Florin Iordache, who has come under heavy fire for publishing the decrees, will temporarily hand his duties over to a subordinate in the ministry, spokeswoman Carmen Lita told the national Agerpres news agency. She said it was because he had a heavy workload preparing this year's budget.

Eight people were injured during clashes late Wednesday. Four of those, two riot police and and two demonstrators, were hospitalized with minor injuries. Twenty people were detained after some protesters threw firecrackers, stones and smoke bombs.

Iohannis criticized the interior ministry, which is in charge of police, for failing to contain "instigators." He asked Dan to send him a report about the way the protest was policed.

Demonstrators say the measure will help government allies and other officials facing corruption charges and will encourage public officials to steal on the job.

About one-third of corruption prosecutions focus on abuse in office charges.