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Romanian government ally criticises official misconduct law

Romania's political crisis has deepened after a key government ally said an emergency decree that would dilute the anti-corruption fight was not constitutional.

Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea, who previously backed the measure, reversed his position on Friday and said he would tell the Constitutional Court that the decree passed overnight on Wednesday to decriminalise official misconduct was "not justified".

He claimed the measure risked "taking out of the reach of criminal law almost all the public administration".

Earlier, justice minister Florin Iordache said he stood by the law, defying strong criticism from home and abroad and days of massive protests.

Mr Iordache, who had temporarily handed over his duties to a subordinate, told reporters: "I take responsibility for this ordinance."

The ruling centre-left Social Democratic Party has defended the decree, which has sparked some of the biggest protests since the 1989 fall of communism

Romania's Constitutional Court - the last legal resort to stop the law - will rule on it on Tuesday.

Speaking at a European Union summit in Malta on Friday, President Klaus Iohannis called the situation "very complicated".

"We have hundreds of thousands of my Romanians out on the streets, and I trust them. I trust my people," Mr Iohannis said.

"I believe in Romania ... European values have to prevail and this is what I believe will happen. "

Amid strong international criticism, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was "deeply concerned" about recent measures "that undermine rule of law and weaken accountability for financial and corruption-related crimes".

AP

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