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Romania high court sentences ex-PM Nastase to 2 years in prison

Romania's High Court of Cassation and Justice [official website, in Romanian] on Monday sentenced former prime minister Adrian Nastase [personal website, in Romanian] to two years in prison on charges of graft and corruption [lawyer notes, in Romanian]. Referred to as the "trophy quality" case, Nastase and five other members of the Social Democratic Party of Romania [party website, in Romanian] were convicted of raising money through taxation under a company called "trophy quality construction works" that then funneled USD $2.2 million to Nastase's failed presidential campaign. Some of Nastase's co-conspirators received sentences up to seven years, and all six received civil prohibitions [TVR report, in Romanian]. Nastase was found not guilty of corruption charges in the "Aunt Tamara" case in December, which is awaiting an appeal taken by the National Anticorruption Department. He also awaits hearings on a third corruption case. In 2009, the European Commission (EC) [official website] urged Romania to lift a judicial immunity from Nastase [JURIST report] and charge him with corruption. Nastase stated that he will appeal the conviction [Realitatea interview, in Romanian] and that it was a decision made to bar him from politics.

Allegations of widespread corruption in Romania have been ongoing since the nation broke away from the Soviet Union in 1989. Last week, the Constitutional Court of Romania ruled that a law allowing local and parliamentary elections to be held at the same time [JURIST report] was unconstitutional. After the ruling, Romanian President Traian Basescu defended his administration amid protests against the government's education, justice, criminal and economic policies. In March 2010, the EC released a report advising Romania to do more to combat corruption and organized crime [JURIST report] as well as conduct judicial reforms in order to enjoy their full rights as members of the European Union (EU). In January 2007, Romania officially joined the EU [JURIST report] following six years of accession negotiations.

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