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Romanian ruling party calls for investigation into August protest

Ruling PSD party calls for probe into alleged external funding and preplanned violence during a rally.

Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) has called for an investigation into alleged external funding of an anti-government protest that ended in violence on August 10, deepening an ongoing dispute that includes widespread allegations of police brutality.

The PSD also called on authorities to investigate whether demonstrators had planned violence before the rally in Bucharest, which concluded with military police (known as the "gendarmerie'") firing tear gas and clashing with rally participants, local media reported on Wednesday. 

The ruling party cited reports in a pro-PSD media outlet, Luju.ro, which recently published a recording of an alleged protester discussing the demonstrators' external funding and planning.

The renewed accusations against demonstrators come on the heels of PSD leader Liviu Dragnea making similar claims while speaking to the local Antena 3 television programme on Monday night.

The August 10 rally was dubbed "Diaspora at Home" and was attended by Romanians who returned to the country to participate. Thousands took to the streets. 

More than 450 people were injured during the scuffles and nearly 300 complaints were filed against the police, forcing the general prosecutor's office to launch an investigation into alleged police brutalities.

Among those injured were journalists and bystanders.

Military police spokesperson Mirza Rosca Traian-Emil said: "We are confident that the competent authorities will be fair and impartial in the investigation."

Traian-Emil declined to comment on speculation that there was a link between the police's use of tear gas and the death of a 62-year-old man in late August, explaining that "the case is under investigation."

The man, who checked himself into a hospital in southern Romania while suffering from internal bleeding and vomiting, had been treated for injuries during the protest.

Parliamentary motion rejected

The National Liberal Party (PNL) has called for interior minister Carmen Dan's resignation, but the parliament rejected on Wednesday a motion accusing Dan of "coordinating" the police crackdown during the protest.

In a statement, Dan said that "the violent actions of some of the protesters have led to the loss of the peaceful character of the public assembly and to the intervention of the public order forces."

"The law applies equally to gendarmes, violent individuals and those who have instigated such actions," Dan said, adding that the investigation will be carried out in a "non-discriminatory manner".

Dan has previously claimed that more than 1,000 people attacked military police during the protest, a claim dismissed by protesters.

The August 10 rally in Bucharest was part of a series of protests stretching back to January 2017, when Romanians took to the streets to protest against the newly inaugurated government's plans to decriminalise certain corruption offences and make abuse of power punishable by prison only if the sums involved exceeded $47,500.

Protests continued throughout 2017 and, although declining in scope, have stretched into 2018.

The rallies have gained the backing of President Klaus Iohannis, a member of the PNL, and many opposition politicians.

PSD leader Dragnea has decried the demonstrations as part of a coup effort, telling Antena 3 last month: "I saw an attempted coup to overthrow the government."

Last month, more than a dozen NGOs and civil society groups filed a complaint, alleging abusive behaviour by police during the protests, including disproportionate force and threats.

Platform Romania 100, an NGO in Bucharest, said in a statement at the time that police had "violated the constitutional principles of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech".

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