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Laura Koevesi speaks during a press conference after she was fired as DNA chief in July 2018.

Romania's justice minister says he will do everything in his power to block the appointment of the lauded former head of Romania's anticorruption agency as the EU's new public prosecutor.

Laura Koevesi was named on February 4 as the preferred candidate for the job, followed by Jean-Francois Bohnert of France and Germany's Andres Ritter on a short list of three.

But Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said that the European Union was "unaware of the abuses carried out" by Koevesi when she was leading Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA).

"I will be writing to all of the European ministers of justice to inform them as to why she was removed from office," Toader, who is head of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) during Romania's current six-month presidency of the bloc, told Romanian media.

During her tenure, Koevesi was widely praised for her bold attempts to stamp out graft in Romania, one of the EU's most corruption-plagued member states.

Toader, a member of the center-left coalition government that came to power in January 2017, ordered Koevesi's dismissal as DNA chief in July 2018, accusing her of overstepping her authority. However, President Klaus Iohannis, a former leader of the center-right opposition, refused to endorse Koevesi's dismissal.

Utimately, Romania's Constitutional Court weighed in and ruled that Koevesi's dismissal was lawful.

The government's push to rapidly undo some of the anticorruption policies and reverse some convictions were seen by many as attempts to exonerate Liviu Dragnea, the head of the ruling Social Democrats and speaker of the lower house.

Dragnea was given a suspended prison sentence after being convicted of abuse of power and is accused of corruption in another pending case. His suspended sentence barred him from becoming prime minister.

The all-out assault of the Social-Democratic-led government against the judiciary in general and Koevesi in particular led to massive street protests in 2017-18, which culminated with a huge August 10 anticorruption protest in Bucharest.

The protest, attended by up to 100,000 Romanians, was violently repressed by riot police.

Koevesi in December filed a complaint at the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that her dismissal was unlawful.

Under her leadership, corruption conviction rates rose sharply as she went after high-ranking government officials, lawmakers, and others.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) was set up in 2017 by 22 of the EU's 28 member states, including Romania, and is due to be launched by the end of 2020.

The final decision on the EPPO appointment is to be made by a majority of EU member states at the end of the month.

The appointment, which cannot be vetoed by any single country, must then be approved by the European Parliament.

Romania currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Romanian Service and The Guardian
Protests in response to recent arrests of Russian mothers engaged in civic activism are being planned in a number of Russian cities.

Moscow authorities have banned a "March of Maternal Anger" planned for February 10, but the organizers plan to hold it regardless.

The rally was announced on January 31 after news emerged that Anastasia Shevchenko, an activist for the NGO Open Russia, had been refused permission to visit her disabled daughter in hospital until the girl was in a critical state.

Similar events -- held in response to recent arrests of Russian mothers engaged in civic activism on behalf of organizations the government has branded "undesirable" -- are planned in four other Russian cities.

A letter from Moscow city authorities, with official notice that the request to hold the rally had been denied, was posted on Facebook on February 4 by Varvara Gryaznova, one of the organizers. "Our anger is not subject to permission," Gryaznova wrote. "Enough of being scared, they feed off our fear." She added that the rally would go ahead despite the ban.

Missed Deadline

According to the authorities, organizers missed the deadline for applying to hold the rally, which is planned for February 10. Russia's law on public gatherings stipulates that requests must be filed not earlier than 15 days and not later than 10 days before the day of the planned event. Gryaznova and her fellow activists submitted their request on February 1, nine days before the rally date.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Gryaznova said she decided to organize the rally after she learned of the death of Shevchenko's daughter.

Shevchenko was placed under house arrest on January 23 because of her work for Open Russia. She is the first person to face criminal charges under a new law against "undesirable organizations" introduced in 2015.

On January 30, her daughter Alina was transferred from the care home she lived in to the intensive care unit of a local hospital after suffering cardiac failure.

Shevchenko requested that she be released to see her daughter, but she says she was not let go until late evening and reached the hospital only hours before her daughter passed away.

Shevchenko's lawyer, Sergei Badamshin, told the independent news agency Meduza on February 1 that the hospital took a long time to issue confirmation that the teenager had been admitted.

Gryaznova said that she and her fellow activists understand the risks of ignoring the ban, and are not pressuring people to join them. But they're determined to hold the protest despite the authorities' prohibition.

"As usual, the Moscow authorities think that people should get permission to express their emotion," she said. "It's better to issue a ban, just in case."

So far, almost 1,700 people have expressed interest or confirmed attendance on the Moscow event's Facebook page.

Rally organizers in other cities have yet to confirm whether they've been given the go-ahead.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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