Romania: Govt wants prosecutor opposed to legal changes out

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's justice minister on Thursday asked the president to dismiss the country's top prosecutor, who has accused the government of undermining efforts to fight corruption.

The development puts Romania at odds with the European Union just before it assumes the EU's rotating presidency on Jan. 1.

Tudorel Toader said he was officially requesting that President Klaus Iohannis remove Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar from his post for mismanagement.

Lazar has been an outspoken critic of a judicial overhaul that critics say would make it harder to prosecute high-level corruption.

Responding to the request for his dismissal, Lazar said the minister was ignoring recommendations made by the EU, which "is asking for an end to actions which harm the rule of law." Romania's justice system remains under special EU monitoring partly over concerns about the legal revisions.

The Venice Commission, a board of legal experts with the Europe's top rights body, the Council of Europe, also expressed alarm this year about the government chipping away at the president's powers, asserting he should be involved in appointing and dismissing chief prosecutors and warning about the justice minister having too much authority in the process.

Analysts said the development reflects the government's determination to assert its right to decide its own laws.

Also Thursday, Tudorel said he was asking Iohannis to appoint a regional prosecutor to the post of chief anti-corruption prosecutor even though Iohannis last month said Adina Florea was disqualified from the position for legal reasons.

The Superior Council of Magistrates said last month there were no grounds to dismiss Lazar, and it ruled that Florea was unsuited for the high-profile position of chief anti-corruption prosecutor because she handled stress badly and had problems with "honesty and impartiality."

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