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Romanian PM Defends Use Of Force Against Protesters


Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila speaks during a news conference last month.

BUCHAREST -- Romania's left-wing prime minister has defended the use of force by police to break up antigovernment protests in Bucharest a week ago, in an incident that left more than 450 people injured and drew criticism from the European Union.

Romanian media on August 17 reported that Prime Minister Viorica Dancila sent a letter to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker claiming that center-right President Klaus Iohannis and other politicians had attempted to "violently remove a legitimate government."

She asserted that the authorities acted legally in their efforts to defend government offices from protesters who tried to break through police lines.

"I consider that these attempts to overthrow a legitimate government with violence could represent a dangerous precedent for democratic states," Dancila was reported as saying in the letter, written in Romanian.

A commission spokesman confirmed that the letter had been received, saying a response would be issued "in due course."

Romanian Protest Turns Violent After Police Scuffle With Protesters
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In the August 10 protests, some 450 protesters required medical assistance after riot police used water cannon and tear gas against an estimated 100,000 mostly peaceful protesters in a display of violence unseen in Romania since the early 1990s.

Many of the demonstrators were expats who came home to protest against corruption, poverty, and what they see as the Social Democratic Party's (PSD) repeated attacks against the judiciary.

The violence against protesters was criticized by Iohannis, rights groups, and the European Commission.

EU spokesman Christian Spahr said on August 16 that "peaceful protests ended in violence, and violence can never be a solution in politics."

Iohannis has been at loggerheads with the ruling PSD, accusing it of attempting to weaken the fight against corruption, putting pressure on the judicial system, and of implementing bad fiscal policies.

An RFE/RL correspondent said some 350 people returned to the streets late on August 17, gathering in front of government buildings in Bucharest to mark one week since the August 10 crackdown.

Members of the crowd stood silently for several minutes with their hands in the air and their backs turned to the government building -- a gesture symbolizing what the protesters called their nonviolent tactics during the demonstrations and their dissatisfaction with the current government.

After the minutes of silence, the crowd shouted "resignation" and "anticipate" (early elections).

With reporting by AP, AFP, Agerpres, and RFE/RL correspondent Eugen Tomiuc in Bucharest.
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