A police officer's intervention keeps Romania's former prime minister from administering a fatal gunshot.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest – 22/06/12
Former Romania Prime Minister Adrian Nastase is in stable condition after attempting suicide as he was being taken to prison. [Victor Barbu/SETimes]
Former Romania Prime Minister Adrian Nastase remained hospitalised Thursday (June 21st) in Bucharest after a failed suicide attempt sustained as authorities arrived at his house to transport him to prison to start a two-year sentence on corruption charges.
Nastase, who was prime minister from 2000 to 2004, shot himself Wednesday when police arrived at his house. One of the officers prevented him from shooting himself in the head, the bullet lodging instead in Nastase's neck. He underwent surgery Thursday and his condition is stable, doctors said.
Nastase's lawyer filed a request to postpone prison confinement due to medical reasons, but warned he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The shooting happened hours after Romania's highest court confirmed a two-year prison sentence that was handed down in February, and hailed by observers as a turning point in Romania's frail justice system.
"This is a historic decision," Laura Stefan, a justice expert with the Romanian Academic Society (SAR), a leading Romanian NGO, told SETimes. "It is the first sentence in post-communist Romania to strike at such a high level, a former head of government."
Nastase, a member of the Social-Democrat Party, the main party of the new tripartite ruling coalition in Romania, was accused of illegally raising about 1.6m euros for his unsuccessful presidential bid in 2004. He lost to the current incumbent Traian Basescu. Nastase rejected the allegations, denouncing them as politically motivated.
Stefan refuted suspicions linking the timing of Nastase's verdict to Romania's efforts to join the Schengen zone and waive the EU's Co-operation and Verification Mechanism (MCV), a safeguard measure instituted in 2006 to ensure progress in the field of justice and internal affairs.
Both Romania and its southern neighbour Bulgaria have been denied entry into the borderless area due to several countries' concerns about the level of corruption in the two.
Though agreeing about the importance of Nastase's sentence, other analysts are more cautious about its potential effects. "It is indeed an unprecedented sentence than can set an example," Alexandru Cumpanasu, director of the Association for Implementing Democracy, told SETimes.
"But keep in mind Adrian Nastase is just one of the thousands of corrupted officials. His trial will set an example, but only for those in the inferior rankings. For those highly positioned, I am afraid they will keep being corrupt since they will still guide themselves after a power algorithm. They will only be afraid after they leave power."
News of Nastase's prison sentence shocked the public. "I just couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the breaking news on TV. Nastase was like a rock in our eyes, impossible to budge. If he fell, anyone else who is dirty can fall," Tudor Lepsa, a 36-year-old sales manager in Bucharest, told SETimes. "I just hope this hasn't been done just for the sake of image."