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Powerful Former Leader Of Romanian Social Democrats Released From Prison

Liviu Dragnea in Bucharest in May 2018
Liviu Dragnea in Bucharest in May 2018

The former leader of Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) has been released from prison after serving part of a 3 1/2 year sentence for corruption.

Liviu Dragnea, who for years was considered Romania’s most powerful politician, walked out of a Bucharest prison on July 15 declaring himself “a political prisoner.”

Dragnea had appealed to a Bucharest court, which agreed on July 15 that his good behavior warranted early release after serving almost two years and two months of his total sentence.

The former party boss was found guilty in 2019 of influence-peddling to secure fake public jobs for two women who were working for the PSD at the time.

Dragnea led the PSD to victory in 2016 parliamentary elections but was unable to become prime minister due to a suspended sentence related to electoral fraud.

Yet as leader of the PSD he still exerted power from behind the scenes as the then-ruling party pushed justice reforms that prompted warnings from the European Union and massive protests against corruption.

Dragnea's arrest in 2019 coincided with political blows to his party, which lost the presidential election the same year and was removed from power through a no-confidence vote.

Although he was released from prison, Dragnea is still being investigated in two more cases related to allegations of influence-peddling and embezzling European Union funds.

It’s unclear if he plans to return to politics.

Some in the PSD view that possibility as a potential liability for the party, while upon his release Dragnea called the PSD "dusty" and led by "cowards."

Vasile Dincu, a former deputy prime minister and current president of the PSD's National Council, told RFE/RL that some in the party are wary of his return to politics.

"Many rejected Liviu Dragnea. Others are scared and think that his return could be a disaster for them or the PSD," Dincu said, adding that he thinks the former party leader would mostly take care of personal matters.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Romanian Service
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