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Sorina MATEI: Adrian Nastase - The Truths of a Groundbreaking Decision

When Victor Ponta said in the evening following the conviction of Adrian Năstase that his case is comparable with that of Iulia Tymoshenko, certainly the Head of the Romanian government mistook his country. While saying these words in Bucharest, in the name of the Romanian Government, he was probably thinking of himself being somehow in Kiev, Ukraine.

 Translated from the Romanian version available on Sorina Matei's blog: Adrian Năstase. Adevărurile unei condamnări zguduitoare.

A sure fact, the five judges of the Romanian Supreme Court have unanimously, definitively and irrevocably convicted the former prime minister Adrian Năstase, mentor of the current Romanian prime minister, Victor Ponta. (...)

The case of Adrian Năstase marks for Romania the end of a terrible battle fought by the justice system with politics in all its forms and embodiments.

In Bucharest, in the Zambaccian case-file in which Năstase was convicted – a true Pantagruelic epopee of corruption evidence and facts, as shown in the indictment - justice prevailed after 8 years. The family of the powerful prime minister was receiving containers of petty things from China, for money hidden in hollow books, all being undue benefits with which the former prime minister has transformed his houses in true bazaars crammed with Chinese goods. This is what taking bribes means.

In Kiev, a former Prime Minister, Iulia Tymoshenko, was sentenced after only a four months trial to 7 years in prison, for abuse of power, only because she signed a Russian gas supply agreement without the approval of the Ukrainian government. This was an example of a political decision that suddenly transformed in a public and judicial execution, causing the outrage of international organisations, of the EU, of the United States Senate, of the European Court of Human Rights, of all western leaders and even of Dalai Lama.

Therefore, the situations, the trials, the facts, the evidence, the conviction, the contexts and even the characters cannot be compared. Romania is not Ukraine. In this sense, by using this comparison, the Romanian Prime Minster not only mistook his country but also made a gross political and international blunder.

“A political convict”, “an abusive political regime”, “the victim of an irresponsible president”, “a system of criminal files”, and the line of statements of prime minister Ponta continued, effectively smashing against the walls the entire Romanian judicial system, which he accused without evidence that it even attempted to produce criminal files targeted at him. The Romanian prime minister’s nervousness was easy to notice. His fierce anger almost crossed over the TV screens when he had to witness for the second time, in his second term, how Adrian Năstase, the man who created, shaped and politically defined Victor Ponta, is going to jail. Each time when Adrian Năstase has passed through difficult moments, Victor Ponta has snapped.

Let us clearly remember: in the very first governmental session lead by Victor Ponta as prime minister, his first care was to appoint Adrian Grăjdan as chief of the Construction State Inspectorate (CSI), thus subordinating CSI. Immediately after, this institution suddenly backed out from the first criminal trial of Adrian Năstase. The prosecutors were, nonetheless, vigilant and Adrian Năstase was eventually sentenced to prison. Victor Ponta has never cleared up what or who determined him to appoint in his first governmental session Grăjdan at the head of an institution that later tried to bring down a high profile corruption case.(…)

You might ask yourselves what does Victor Ponta owe to Adrian Năstase making the Romanian prime minister to have these reactions, some of them transformed in political decisions that have crippled the rule of law in Romania. Everything or nearly everything; this would be the most honest answer. Adrian Năstase, an extremely powerful man in the 2000s, has taken Victor Ponta from the General Prosecutor’s Office, he changed his profession, appointed him head of the 'prime minister’s Control Body, made him a politician, young social-democrat heir of Titulescu, supported him in the party, gave him organisations and decision-making power, and finally four years ago he gave him PSD.

What has Ponta done for Năstase? Everything that he could, but he couldn’t bring down Justice, even after “Black Tuesday”.

In the last TV-show in which Adrian Năstase appeared, while being paroled, he subtly criticised his disciple for the major mistakes that he has done as a prime minister. ”He left the judicial system, Băsescu’s system to regenerate (…) Do you believe that if I got into prison there is no more corruption In Romania?”, rhetorically asked Adrian Năstase in this approximate quote.

The former prime minister never understood that it is not about this, but rather about a sentiment of security and justice that the society receives when the justice system works. The feeling that, no matter your name, your power or the position you hold, in a democratic state eventually these things are transitory. No one gets ill pleasures from seeing handcuffed men, but illegalities, theft and corruption have to be eventually paid for. This is how a state, in which honor still matters, functions. The act of justice is for now still implacable.

These are the “system” and the thoughts with which Adrian Năstase has battled unsuccessfully for the past 8 years in Romania. This is what Victor Ponta is still contesting.

However, the system that Năstase was spurning has several names: Mariana Alexandru, Lucian Papici, Mihaela Iorga Moraru, Cătălin Vartic, Doru Țuluș, Daniel Morar, Laura Codruța Koveși, Călin Nistor – all prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate; Livia Stanciu, Ionuț Matei, first and second criminal sections of the Supreme Court of Justice – all judges; Monica Macovei and Cătălin Predoiu – former ministers of Justice; the heads of the intelligence services; Traian Băsescu – the president of Romania.

Without these prosecutors, the evidence against Adrian Năstase, some of it collected by his PSD colleagues, would not have existed, without evidence the judges would not have been able to give a unanimous ruling, without ministers that do not politically interfere but rather support the independence of the justice system, the magistrates would not have been able to do their jobs, without maintaining the balance within the state an independent justice cannot exist, and without political will nothing can be done. This is the truth.

In the past 15 years, PSD leaders, no matter their names, have never been able to accept the idea of an independent justice.

In the time of Adrian Năstase, albeit the system was corrupt yet powerful, in Romania, there were no important convictions. All the institutions were paralyzed and politically controlled. Moreover, a prosecutor conducting at that time a difficult case involving PDSR committed suicide.

Mircea Geoană, who has also leaded the party and a powerful governmental alliance, has never prioritized the fight against corruption. Instead he tried to sabotage it shaking hands with the mob.

Now think: what do they think?... Marian Vanghelie, Marian Oprișan, Radu Mazăre, Nicușor Constantinescu, Mircea Cosma, Liviu Dragnea, Dan Voiculescu, Sebastian Ghiță... What do they think when they look at their TVs, see Adrian Năstase and think about what they have done and are still doing?

They are furious, it’s their government and yet they are still going to jail. They want guarantees, not handcuffs. Something like this they simply cannot understand. (...)

Sorina MATEI is a leading Romanian journalist covering political issues, justice and home affairs.