WORLD / Europe

Romania's top prosecutor quits
Updated: 2006-07-22 11:51

BUCHAREST, July 21 - Romania's chief prosecutor quit on Friday after criticism of his handling of a case in which a Syrian-Romanian businessman charged with organising the kidnapping of three journalists in Iraq was able to flee the country.

The heads of Romania's main secret services and a top civil servant resigned on Thursday after a meeting with President Traian Basescu about the disappearance of Omar Hayssam shortly before he was to be returned to jail to await trial.

The presidency said in a statement that chief prosecutor Ilie Botos had resigned but gave no details. Interior Minister Vasile Blaga said earlier that prosecutors who handled the case should have resigned.

"I have personal reasons for resigning, I was not forced to do so," Botos told private television station Realitatea TV. "I quit after making a thorough assessment over the past days ... Today, I met prosecutors involved in the (Hayssam's) case.

Botos said Hayssam had left Romania. He did not elaborate.

He and the secret service heads were appointed during the rule of the ex-communist Social Democrats, who lost the 2004 election to the present centrist coalition.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement it would look for a successor to Botos soon. The government welcomed the changes, saying in a statement that reforms were badly needed.

"An essential condition for the secret services to function in line with democracy norms is to have professionals as chiefs there ... regarding the General Prosecuting Office, it is badly needed that justice reforms and fighting corruption are stepped up," Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said.

"Hayssam's case is (having) a snowball effect," Alina Mungiu-Pippidi of the think tank Societatea Academica Romana told Reuters. "This wave of resignations is very positive for Romania."


Botos had also been criticised for the ineffectiveness of his office's fight against "big-fish" corruption before the centrists took power 19 months ago.
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