BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A top Romanian judicial body said Wednesday that a government proposal to pardon thousands of prisoners — which critics say would reverse the country's anti-corruption drive — is unconstitutional.
The Superior Council of Magistrates said that two government proposals to push through prisoner pardons by emergency ordinance violate an article in the constitution that requires such measures to be approved by Parliament. The council's ruling is not binding.
President Klaus Iohannis has strongly criticized the proposal and called for a referendum on the issue. Thousands have protested against it in cities around Romania, saying it would help government allies convicted on corruption charges secure early releases.
Premier Sorin Grindeanu says the move was proposed to ease overcrowding in Romanian prisons.
The justice ministry published a draft of the plan last week, which was criticized by Romania's top prosecutor and opposition politicians.
The proposal would primarily affect those with sentences under five years, except for those convicted of crimes of a sexual nature, violence or corruption.
Prisoners over 60, pregnant women and inmates with young children would see their sentences halved regardless of their convictions.
According to the draft, the government also intends to decriminalize cases of official misconduct where the financial damage is less than 200,000 lei ($47,800).
The government says its proposal would lead to the release of 2,500 prisoners. Prison authorities say 3,700 would be freed.