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Thousands In Romania Protest Planned Decriminalization, Prisoner Release

Thousands of people took to the streets of Bucharest to protest against the Romanian government's plans to pardon thousands of criminals and to decriminalize some offenses.

Thousands of people have rallied in Bucharest and other cities across Romania to protest government plans to pardon thousands of criminals and to decriminalize some offenses.

At least 15,000 protesters gathered near University Square in the capital on January 22 to demonstrate against plans by new Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu that have been criticized by the president, the prosecutor-general, the Supreme Court, and special prosecutors fighting organized crime.

Protesters held banners reading "We are awake," "We want justice, not corruption," and chanted "thieves" as they marched toward government headquarters.

Thousands also rallied in Cluj, Timisoara, Iasi, Sibiu, and other cities in the EU country of 20 million people.

Grindeanu's draft decrees have alarmed people complaining about a lack of transparency and of legislating through decrees instead of with parliament.

The draft decrees would, among other things, decriminalize abuse of power acts that cause less than 200,000 lei ($47,500) in damages -- an offense that the ruling Social Democrat party leader is accused of.

President Klaus Iohannis -- who joined the protests on January 22 -- urged the government to scrap the decrees, which he said undermine the rule of law and the battle against corruption.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP