Do you consider yourself a politician, or a civic leader?
I am a Romanian. As a former intelligence officer, I was trained to fight terrorism that could affect Romania and other EU allied and partner states. I never thought I would have to fight the terror of abuses against my fellow compatriots. This is the reason I went out publicly as a civic duty.
Since stepping down from the Romanian Intelligence Service and speaking publicly about the abuses in Romania, I have found myself subject to a raft of allegations and false charges by what one might call the “Securitate 2.0”.
This is the reason for my decision to go into politics. Too many Romanians are afraid. It is a duty to get involved and to try to change the system. Politics for me is not a job or a career step, it is a duty to my fellow Romanians.
What was the inspiration for your movement, and what are your goals?
My children, my family and the popular support I found after going out publicly are a real inspiration. I want to be able to look in the eyes of my boys in the future and to tell them I did not run away from the face of danger or pressures, that I stood up and defended our values and principles of freedom and democracy. Late December 2017 Romania 3.0 put out a manifesto: Romania is at the crossroads of history. Important decisions lie ahead. What is the country we want to leave to our children: a country of fears, abuses, mass wiretapping, and false accusations; or a country of freedom, democracy, rule of law and prosperity?
What are your views on the European Project, and the European Institutions?
Romania is a part of Europe. Romania is a profoundly European country with a profoundly pro-European population. But Romanians have made great sacrifices to enter the EU. We accepted things that did not suit us, we were reprimanded; put in the corner for so many years. We have accepted to hand over the Romanian economy to foreign firms, more than 50% of the Romanian economy is now run by European firms, we have given almost entirely our public utility companies to foreign companies, we allowed our rich agricultural land to be bought by Europeans, we received our European brothers with open arms.
We have left nearly 5 million Romanians in the EU, the bulk of them are medium or highly educated people, people who provide high-quality services in European countries, people who participate in the GDP in the countries where they work. A working diaspora for the most part. Only images of beggars have been thrown into our faces.
Moreover, when in the last years the Romanians that remained in the country were arrested on secret protocols between the Romanian Intelligence Service, prosecutors’ offices and courts, when the Romanians were again subjected to political police and mass surveillance, when the Romanians suffered the oppression of a new Securitate, Europe has turned a blind eye to us. We were called names for so many years: criminals, thieves, corrupt; second-hand citizens. The Brussels institutions closed their eyes to abuses and thousands of victims, but meanwhile gave awards to the torturers.
EU gave awards of “European citizens” to some people who worked for the totalitarian regime of the 1950s, then for Ceausescu’s Security, or those who, more recently, led the new repression institutions like DNA and SRI.
What is the situation with the rule of law in Romania?
The rule of law is not respected in Romania. The collusion between secret services and the judiciary characterised by abundant wiretaps, erosion of judicial independence and targeted reputational smears, undermines not just much needed and legitimate anti corruption efforts, but Romania’s entire democratic system. The rule of law, democratic accountability and judicial independence cannot be threatened by an unaccountable cabal at the highest levels of Romania’s anti corruption and intelligence apparatus.
Is Romania’s rule of law situation comparable with Hungary and/or Poland?
The situation is not comparable. The fight for freedom in democracy in Romania is a fight that strikes at the heart of post-communist Romania, a fight against a return to a dark chapter in our history and the return to the Securitate’s toxic practices. It is actually a fight to complete the ideals of the 1989 Revolution. Romanians were duped after the Revolution that the past has ended. The past of a totalitarian regime, using the new democratic institutions is still very much alive.
When did we get there? How long have the secret protocols between the Romanian secret services and judicial institutions been in place? What are those protocols?
Since 2009, a series of secret protocols have been signed between the Romanian Intelligence Service – the Prosecutor’s Office attached to the High Court of Cassation and Justice – the High Court of Cassation and Justice. There are also secret service protocols with the Superior Council of Magistracy, the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary, and other courts in Romania. Also with the Judicial Inspection. A few days ago this last one was declassified. In fact, these protocols have flagrantly violated Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair trial. Any right of defendants to defend themselves has been breached; in courts were presented unlawfully obtained evidence, secret evidence, to which neither the accused nor his defence team had access. The “tactical field” mentioned by a General of the Romanian Intelligence Service, Dumitru Dumbravă, in a 2015 interview was really put into practice. The secret services have done both the criminal investigation, coordinated it, but also ensured that the people will be convicted by the secret protocols signed with the courts. There are dozens of cases, courageous judges, magistrates’ associations, even prosecutors, who came out publicly and revealed these practices. Can you still give me an example of an European country where there are such secret protocols? Is there such a clash between secret service officers and magistrates in any EU country that escapes any legal or democratic control? Do these realities remind you of an EU member country or a country in the darker past of the Soviet Union?
Are they still in use – what comes next?
Only a few of them were declassified, the SRI commission speaks about another dozen that were handed out by the SRI to the Parliament and they are in the process of being evaluated. This week the Parliament submitted a file to the Constitutional Court in order to rule on the nature of those protocols and their impact. Few institutions in Romania, like the CCR were able to stop the abuses. With casualties, a sitting judge of the CCR was arrested from his office in 2015 because he dared to rule against the SRI and the DNA. After 3 years, he was acquitted.
The first report of the SRI Commission in 3 October 2018, shows a high number of interception orders. Can you explain the numbers and implications of your recent findings?
As a result of the public disclosures made by me in September 2017, the Control Commission of the Romanian Intelligence Service in the Romanian Parliament has begun an investigation into the political police practices in Romania and the collusion between the secret services and the judiciary.
A first report was presented on October 3, 2018. It shows a cruel reality that we never dared to think about. There is a report of over 311,000 interception orders issued in 2005-2016. There are public cases of mandates on which even 80 people were intercepted. The report also shows that the average would be 20 persons on a single mandate, resulting in 6 million Romanians being restricted their rights during this period, more than 2/3 of the active population of Romania. Do not forget that 5 million Romanians are now in other EU countries. And I want to give you some bad news. In these mandates were not only Romanian citizens, but also many European citizens. Would the European Commission be interested in finding out how many European citizens were subjects of those interceptions?
According to the data provided by the judicial inspection, between January 2014 and July 2018, Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate solved 1965 cases concerning 3420 magistrates, 2,193 judges and 1227 prosecutors. Are those numbers presented to the EU? Did you get any comments or follow-up from the Commission on your report?
This is a serious act of pressure and what I interpret as blackmail on judges. How do you think a Romanian John Doe accused by the National Anticorruption Directorate stays in front of a judge knowing that he is carrying a heavy burden behind him, a file with which he is held in a snare by an accusation made by the National Anti-Corruption Directorate?
A few days ago, a courageous Romanian military judge, Constantin Udrea, who has not been charged with any criminal act, yet… had the courage to go public and talk about under-cover secret service prosecutors (illegal), about National Anticorruption Directorate and Romanian Intelligence Service intrusion into cases, secret evidence shown only to judges, and the constant pressures to which they are subjected. We are still waiting a follow-up from the commission and legislative steps from the Romanian Government to provide the necessary independence to the judges.
Is it too late for the EU to act? What should the European Institutions do? Do you believe the recent intervention by Vice-President Frans Timmermans in the European parliament in the right direction?
Is is the very last chance for the EU to act. It is never too late. Mr. Timmermans’ intervention is a beginning to accept the realities in Romania. Strong efforts need to be put in place to secure a democratic legislation able to provide any Romanian the right to a fair trial and the right to defend himself in the court. Manipulation of the EU by some Romanian MEP’s must cease.
I do not want to go so far as to accuse a number of European officials of knowing, covering, or saying that they were accomplices in these things. Certainly, Coldea and Kovesi’s propaganda machine also worked in Brussels through manipulation by using persons such as Monica Macovei, a former communist prosecutor who knew such practices well before 1989.
But I can ask myself and ask you: Can the principles of freedom and democracy that united us be dismissed or covered by “secret protocols”?
I hope not. And I hope that Romania and the Romanians will be free one day.
Has the time come for the EU to change its perspective on the judicial situation in Romania?
It is not about changing perspective. It is about enforcing that the rules and regulations are really applied. I speak openly about zero tolerance to corruption. What about zero tolerance to abuses? The anti corruption fight in Romania is actually a very corrupted operation. A political and personal vendetta. A smear campaign to eliminate the opponents.
What are the prison conditions like? You have had some experiences in this field.
Romanian prisons are a modern gulag. The conditions are a terrifying image of a systematic effort to break people, physically and psychologically. I was detained a total 12 months in a pre-trial arrest stage. The torture has one goal only: to break the will of the detainees, to force them to confess to the “crimes”, to accept the charges and to make false accusations on others, usually on targets that the prosecutors want to indicate. Lack of basic rights, lack of access to health treatment, humiliating conditions, this is the gulag I saw with my own eyes.
What will happen to those investigated using these protocols that are still in jails – and what should happen?
The people that signed and implemented these secrete abusive protocols hate one word: accountability. In my opinion, they should be held accountable for the political police system they used. George Maior, general Florian Coldea, Laura Codruta Kovesi, general Dumitru Dumbrava; they should be prosecuted and held responsible for the crimes they committed.
Those who were investigated using this secret police should be immediately released and given the possibility to a fair trial and to be allowed to be compensated for every day they were detained in the gulag. The principles of democracy and rule of law should be respected. It is the only solution, otherwise, the public is already starting to lose faith that the EU and the Romanian government are working for the people and not against them.
We learn from our history that the Romanian people can be robbed, can be depleted, can withstand cold and starvation, but the Romanian people can not, in the long run, be humiliated.
One of the explanations of the 1989 Revolution is that the Romanian people did not stand to be humiliated anymore. In a mocking way, there is an expression about the Romanians, that “the polenta does not explode”. But historical moments come, like the one in December 1989 when the polenta exploded. Because of the humiliation to which the Romanians had been subjected.