Former-Romanian PM Nastase to serve prison term
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is to be Romania's first leader to serve time in prison since the 1989 fall of communism, as the nation's highest court on Wednesday upheld his two-year sentence on corruption charges.
Nastase had appealed a March 30 court ruling that sentenced him to jail for illegally raising funds for a failed presidential campaign, but the high court ruled against him.
The decision is final, a rare conviction for a former prime minister in Europe, and sent shockwaves through the country
Nastase has insisted that the case is politically motivated and indicated he will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. He claimed Saturday that the sentence was unjust as he says the exhausting 8-year-trial has felt like a prison sentence of its own.
Nastase, who will be 62 on Friday, follows Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu -- arrested, briefly imprisoned tried and then executed by firing squad with his wife Elena in 1989 after 25 years as president -- into the record books.
Nastase was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and headed the Social Democracy Party from 2000 to 2005. He also served as foreign minister from 1990 to 1992, and was also parliamentary speaker.
As the news of the high court ruling broke, some Romanians rejoiced at the imprisonment of such a former powerful leader, while others said they were dumbfounded by the news.
`'Of course, until the end of his life Nastase will say it is an injustice, but it is a landmark in Romanian legal history," said journalist Cristian Tudor Popescu. "(That) people who appear to be demi-gods can actually be sent to prison."
Prosecutors found Nastase guilty of using fees that he charged companies and state agencies to attend a conference for his unsuccessful 2004run for the presidency. Nastase lost the runoff vote to President Traian Basescu.
According to a 2011 Transparency International report, Romania is one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union, which it joined in 2007.
The EU has urged it to crack down on endemic corruption, particularly in the legal system which has been criticized for being under political influence.