AP NEWS

Romanian court delays appeal decision in graft conviction

April 15, 2019
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Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's ruling Social Democratic party, left, leaves escorted by police officers after a court hearing in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, April 15, 2019. The High Court for Cassation and Justice has postponed a verdict in the trial of the country's most powerful politician accused of intervening from 2006-2012 to keep two women on the payroll of a family welfare agency, even though they were working for his party instead. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
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Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania's ruling Social Democratic party, left, leaves escorted by police officers after a court hearing in Bucharest, Romania, Monday, April 15, 2019. The High Court for Cassation and Justice has postponed a verdict in the trial of the country's most powerful politician accused of intervening from 2006-2012 to keep two women on the payroll of a family welfare agency, even though they were working for his party instead. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian court has postponed until May 20 its decision on an appeal by the country’s most powerful politician against his 3 ½ year prison sentence for official misconduct in a graft case.

A few supporters of Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea scuffled with police Monday outside the courthouse as he entered.

Critics fear the delay endangers Dragnea’s 2018 conviction, linked to the employment of two party members at a public agency, because the anticipated June 1 retirement of one the five judges hearing the appeal could potentially lead to a re-trial.

Also, a decision by the Constitutional Court due May 19 may invalidate Dragnea’s conviction if it finds that the three-judge panel involved did not meet certain legal conditions.

Dragnea was convicted of vote-rigging in 2016.