Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Strasbourg court waives immunity in Romanian corruption case

  • Gabriela Birsan is accused of taking jewellery for verdicts (Photo: suziesparkle)

The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday (30 November) decided to waive the diplomatic immunity of its Romanian member, Corneliu Birsan, whose wife is being investigated for corruption.

Following a request from Romanian prosecutors, who had already searched a villa of the Birsan couple, the Strasbourg court decided to split Birsan's immunity and only waive the part that applies to his wife, Gabriela, "to the extent strictly necessary for the conduct of the investigation."

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Gabriela Birsan, a judge in Romania's supreme court, is being investigated for allegedly taking bribes, including jewellery and expensive trips abroad, in exchange for favourable verdicts.

Mid-October, prosecutors obtained a waiver of her national immunities from Romania's top magistrate council and subsequently searched one of the Birsans' homes. Her husband promptly invoked his diplomatic status as a judge with the European Court of Human Rights to block the inquiry. The court initially backed him and expressed its "concern" for not having been consulted on waiving his privileges.

The waiver does not apply to the Strasbourg judge himself, nor does it have a "retroactive effect", meaning that evidence gathered during the house search cannot be considered legal. It is unclear whether prosecutors will be able to search any of their joint property or bank accounts.

"We take note of the court's ruling. Our prosecutor dealing with the case is now analysing how to proceed further," a spokeswoman for the Romanian anti-corruption office told this website.

Romania's anti-corruption efforts are being closely monitored by the European Commission. Its report in February on this issue will be the main argument for the Netherlands to keep or lift its veto on Bucharest joining the border-free Schengen area.

Romanian judge claims European immunity in jewels-for-verdicts case

Romania's judge at the European Court of Human Rights on Friday claimed diplomatic immunity for his wife, a judge under investigation for allegedly receiving jewellery, holiday tickets and expensive restaurant meals for favourable verdicts in the country's highest appeals court.

Greek EU commissioner challenges bribery allegations

Dimitris Avramopoulos says he will mount a legal challenge to reveal the identities of people behind allegations that he, along with other former Greek ministers, had accepted money from a Swiss pharmaceutical giant.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

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