Romania interior minister: I didn't know police officer died

AP News
Posted: Oct 26, 2015 2:29 PM
Romania interior minister: I didn't know police officer died

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's president advised the country's interior minister to resign Monday amid widespread public anger over the death of a police officer who was escorting the minister's motorcade.

President Klaus Iohannis told reporters he summoned Gabriel Oprea for talks and advised him to resign, adding the government's communication about the case had been "catastrophic."

Policeman Bogdan Gigina died after riding his motorbike into a hole on Oct. 20. Gigina was in a motorcade easing a route in Bucharest for Oprea.

The case has touched a nerve in Romania where many believe politicians abuse their positions by overusing motorcades, snarling traffic in the overcrowded capital city of 3 million.

During the weekend, hundreds protested against Oprea, including some 300 motorcyclists who rode through the capital carrying a portrait of the dead officer.

In his first comments about the death, Oprea said Monday that he was unaware of the accident at the time. He said his motorcade stopped, but he didn't know why and a police officer then told the vehicles to move on.

Oprea insisted he didn't break any law by using the motorcade, but has not said why he needed it other than that it was for "professional purposes."

Leaders of the opposition Liberal Party said they would file a motion of no-confidence against the government over the case.

Oprea is a member of the junior partner in the coalition government, the National Union for the Progress of Romania.

The leader of the biggest party in the coalition, the Social Democratic Party's Liviu Dragnea, also criticized Oprea Monday, saying he should have made a statement earlier.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta has accused opposition politicians and journalists of speculating about the death for political reasons.

Prosecutors investigating possible manslaughter say they have received incomplete information from the interior ministry and police.