Tens of thousands of Romanians protest judicial reform
By Sim Sim Wissgott
Tens of thousands of Romanians braved heavy snow in the capital Bucharest on Saturday to protest judicial reforms that they say will lead to a backsliding in the country's fight against corruption.
At least 50,000 people marched towards parliament, blowing whistles, waving flags and chanting "Thieves!". Tens of thousands also protested in cities across Romania.
Parliament last month approved amendments to laws that critics say will make it harder to prosecute crime and high-level corruption.
The move by the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) and their junior coalition partner ALDE has received strong criticism from the European Commission, the US State Department, thousands of magistrates and centrist President Klaus Iohannis, who will have to sign the amendments into law.
On Saturday, protesters briefly scuffled with riot police as they massed in Bucharest's University Square, but the demonstrations were otherwise peaceful.
Last year, Romania saw the biggest protests since the end of communism in 1989 after the left-wing government tried to push through an emergency decree decriminalising several corruption offenses.
Romania, which joined the European Union in 2007, remains subject to a special Cooperation and Verification Mechanism imposed by the bloc to oversee the country's efforts on judicial reform and corruption.