US condemns suspension of Romanian judge over TikTok posts

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A well-known judge in Romania has been suspended from his position over videos he posted on the social media platform TikTok, a move that has drawn widespread criticism and condemnation from the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday.

Cristi Danilet, a judge in Romania’s northern city of Cluj, was suspended Monday by the Superior Council of Magistrates over two videos he posted on TikTok last year which a panel decided amounted to “behavior that affects the image of the justice system.”

Danilet on Tuesday told The Associated Press that in one video he appeared cutting a garden hedge and in another cleaning his at-home swimming pool and that neither video which led to the disciplinary action had anything to do with his profession. The decision can be appealed.

Danilet, who has amassed a large social media following, has for years been critical of Romania’s judiciary and called for reforms, and has in the past organized protests against those who oppose reforms. He also runs legal education courses for children.

“I think it’s a kind of payback,” Danilet told the AP. “For many years I’ve been involved in the reform of (Romania’s) judiciary … I’ve got a lot of enemies for this kind of attitude. In Romania, it’s very difficult to make reforms of the judiciary, but also reforms of mentalities.”

The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest said in a statement Tuesday that it’s “deeply concerned” about Danilet’s suspension.

“An independent justice that respects the rule of law is essential for any prosperous democracy,” the statement said, adding that President Joe Biden recently said at the Summit for Democracy that “democracy does not happen by accident.”

Dacian Ciolos, who previously served as prime minister between 2015 and 2017 in a caretaker Cabinet, condemned the suspension and accused the recently sworn-in coalition government of beginning the “destruction of justice.”

“(The suspension) looks bad no matter how we look at things,” Ciolos said. “Even if this decision is overturned by the High Court, the signal has been given. Judges need to be very careful.”

Ciolos added that in recent months he has “received information” that several judges and prosecutors “feel intimidated and are in different stages of disciplinary action.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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