Romania justice minister resigns over anti-government protests

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This discontent has reached its zenith with the current protests - the largest since the fall of Communism - in response to a government proposal to amend the penal code.

Demonstrations calling for the resignation of the entire Social Democrat-led government - which introduced the measure - are expected to continue this week.

On Sunday night, an estimated record 500,000 people gathered in Bucharest and other Romanian cities seeking the government's resignation even though the cabinet earlier repealed its decree that eases or scraps penalties for corruption offences committed by politicians.

On Thursday, Iordache defended the controversial verdict as he announced his resignation, saying he had carried out "all necessary actions to remedy a series of sensitive problems". "However, for the public opinion this was not enough, so I have made a decision to submit my resignation". His successor has not yet been named.

The government had rescinded the decree on February 5, but some protesters have pledged to keep up the pressure until Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu resigns.

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The ordinance would have decriminalized abuse in office by officials if the amount involved was less than about $48,500.

On Thursday, a much smaller but fiery crowd of 2,500 still turned out to protest in central Bucharest, waving Romanian and European Union flags and holding placards reading "We are fighting for principles and values".

The government had earlier argued that the changes were needed to reduce prison overcrowding and align certain laws with the constitution.

Tariceanu is a strong critic of the anti-corruption prosecutors' agency, which he accuses of overstepping its authority.

The head of the country's anti-corruption force told AFP in an interview that the fight against graft was far from being won, despite the government's withdrawal of the decree.