Conviction and imprisonment of Romanian lawyer Robert Roșu
We've written to the Romanian authorities about Robert Roșu, who was sentenced to five years in prison on December 2020. We're concerned that his conviction is related to his professional activities as a lawyer.
Who we wrote to
Klaus Iohannis, the President of Romania.
We wrote the letter jointly with Lawyers for Lawyers, a Dutch foundation that seeks to promote the proper functioning of the rule of law by pursuing freedom and independence of the legal profession.
What's the issue
Robert Roșu is a partner at the law firm Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii in Bucharest. On 17 December 2020, the High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania found Roșu guilty of participating in the formation of an organised criminal group and of complicity in abuse of office, and sentenced him to five years in prison. We are concerned that his conviction is related to his professional activities as a lawyer.
The criminal case against Roșu is most likely related to his professional activities in the ‘Băneasa Farm Case’ regarding the restitution of large plots of land in northern Bucharest to the heir of King Carol II of Romania. Roșu, as the legal representative to the heir of King Carol II, secured the restitution, as well as the restitution of of other property to different clients through administrative procedures.
On December 2015, Roșu was charged with the formation of an organised criminal group, complicity in abuse of office, influence peddling and money laundering, and placed under house arrest for three months due to his work on the case.
On March 2016, a judge of the Criminal Division of the High Court of Cassation and Justice found that Roșu’s actions “fall within the limits of the activities normally carried out by a lawyer”, and on 11 March 2016 he was released from house arrest. Despite this, the National Anticorruption Directorate (NAD) decided that the criminal prosecution against Roșu should continue and indicted him on May 2016.
In June 2019, the Brașov Court of Appeals acquitted Roșu of all charges, establishing that there was no indication that Roșu committed any of the crimes with which he had been charged. The NAD decided to appeal this decision, alleging that Roșu was criminally guilty for:
- his “mere presence” alongside his client in proceedings before a restitution commission
- using “an important volume of information referring to legal terminology”, and
- excessively “persuasive” pleadings
On 17 December 2020, the High Court of Cassation and Justice found Roșu guilty on charges of creating an organised criminal group and complicity to abuse in public office, and sentenced him to five years in prison. Roșu is currently serving his sentence in Rahova prison.
What we asked for
We are concerned that Robert Roșu was found guilty and sentenced to five years' imprisonment as a result of being identified with his client. We're also alarmed by alleged procedural irregularities, such as lawyers being asked to testify as witnesses in the case.
We urge the relevant authorities in Romania to:
- review Robert Roșu’s case and vacate the charges against him unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect international fair trial guarantees
- release Robert Roșu pending such review
- guarantee that all lawyers in Romania, including Robert Roșu, are able to practice law without threat, intimidation, hindrance harassment, improper interference or reprisals
We will continue to monitor the situation in Romania, as well as the situation of other members of the legal profession there.