Former Romanian Premier Ordered Released From Prison

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The Romanian former prime minister Adrian Nastase will be released early from prison after serving nine months of a two-year term for corruption, a Bucharest court ruled on Monday.

The decision to release him appeared to mark the end of an extraordinary episode that riveted Mr. Nastase's compatriots. In June, when the police arrived at Mr. Nastase's villa to arrest him, he apparently pulled out a revolver and tried to kill himself. Millions of Romanians watched on television in shock as he was carried off on a stretcher, a Burberry scarf wrapped around his neck. He survived and was soon behind bars.

Mr. Nastase, 62, the most senior Romanian politician to be imprisoned since the end of Communism in 1989, was convicted of siphoning $2 million in state funds for his presidential campaign. His arrest was lauded by anti-corruption advocates as a seminal moment in Romania's law enforcement history. But Mr. Nastase called the charges against him a preposterous "political game."

Mr. Nastase, prime minister from 2000 to 2004, was expected to be released late Monday.

Even Mr. Nastase's critics said his release was understandable given his age and exemplary behavior, including writing three books while in prison.

"The fact that such a high-level politician served jail time for illegal financing is a lesson that no one in this country is above the law," said Laura Stefan, an anti-corruption expert at Expert Forum, a research group. "The point has been made."

Romania, among the poorest countries in the European Union, has struggled to shed a culture of lawlessness and corruption, one legacy of decades of Communism under the brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Mr. Nastase wrote Monday on his jailhouse blog that he looked forward to returning home to family and friends. "For a few days, I'll just use the time to 'breathe' the freedom outside," he wrote.

Ms. Stefan said Mr. Nastase was still being investigated by prosecutors for accusations that he possessed firearms and ammunition without proper authorization.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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