Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's Social Democrats (PSD) and speaker of the House of Deputies, received a 3 years, 6 months sentence in a case involving fictitious employment of people at an institution in the county of Teleorman, where he used to run the regional authority. The verdict is not final as it can be appealed.
Dragnea was sentenced under abuse in office charges. Charges related to encouraging intellectual forgery were dropped.
The court has also annulled a suspended sentence in a previous case Dragnea was convicted in - an electoral fraud case where he received a suspended sentence two years ago - and applied a prison sentence without suspension in this case.
In this case, Dragnea was accused that during 2006-2012, when he served as president of the Teleorman County Council and head of the local branch of a political party, he determined a manager of a child protection agency to breach her duties and retain two employees at an institution, despite that they, in fact, were working at the Teleorman branch of the respective political party.
The verdict comes as Dragnea's Social Democrats have been using all the tools at their disposal at government and parliamentary level to push through a series of legislative changes that according to critics are undermining the fight against corruption in the country. Many of the changes - including some adopted earlier this week, as part of a "reform" of the criminal procedure code - are said to be aimed at helping Dragnea and other high officials who are facing charges of corruption.
The changes have sparked protests in Bucharest and across Romania for the past year and a half, with renewed demonstrations taking place this week.