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Romania Investigating Charges Of Police Violence At Protests

Romania has opened an investigation into alleged police violence at a mass protest against the government last week that left hundreds of people injured, prosecutors said as protests continued for a fourth day on August 13.

As many as 80,000 people -- many of them Romanians living abroad who had returned home for the protests -- demonstrated late on August 10 in Bucharest, accusing the government of corruption and urging it to resign.

To disperse the crowd, police used water cannons, tear gas, pepper spray, and batons, leaving more than 450 people injured, including 30 police, and around 30 arrested. The incident prompted widespread criticism both in Romania and from the European Union.

"Until now we have received about 30 complaints, and my colleagues are interviewing those who were injured," military prosecutor Ionel Corbu said on August 13, adding that "all those suspected to have acted against the law" will be questioned.

Romanian Protest Turns Violent After Police Scuffle With Protesters
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Prosecutors will also analyze videos of the security forces interacting with the media and demonstrators, some of which were posted on social media showing violence at the end of the protests on August 13.

Smaller, more peaceful demonstrations were held on August 11 and 12 in cities around Romania, and the protests continued for a fourth straight day on August 13, with around 2,000 people rallying in the center of Bucharest.

Police have said they responded to the protests last week in a "gradual and proportionate" manner and blamed the violence on what they said were dozens of hooligans who tried to break the police cordon in Bucharest and threw rocks and water bottles at security forces.

'Inconceivable In A European State'

Romania's center-right President Klaus Iohannis, a critic of the leftwing government, in a televised message on August 13 again condemned "the brutal intervention of the police."

"To attack innocent people, journalists, women, and children, is inconceivable in a European state," said Iohannis.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country currently holds the EU rotating presidency, also criticized the clashes, in which a cameraman for Austria's public broadcaster was injured.

Monica Macovei, a former Romanian justice minister and member of the European Parliament, also decried the violence on August 13 and called for an investigation in a statement quoted by

"A state battering its citizens is a criminal state and a dictatorship. Prosecutors need to investigate impartially and swiftly, and sue all the culprits," she said.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova urged the Romanian government on August 13 to rethink recent changes to the justice system that led to the widespread protests.

Protesters have cited recently passed legislation, which decriminalized some graft violations by politicians.

In a piece in the German newspaper Die Welt, Jourova said the legislation threatens the independence of judges and limits the authority of state prosecutors, thereby undermining public confidence in the justice system.

Romania has seen frequent protests against corruption in the last year and a half, though violence has been rare.

In the last 15 years, around four million Romanians -- many citing government corruption and a lack of economic opportunity -- have left the country to live elsewhere in the EU.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, and RFE/RL's Moldovan Service
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