GUE/NGL MEP Helmut Scholz, Member of the Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), travelled on 9 December to the Republic of Moldova to visit the imprisoned leader of the “Red Block” opposition party Grigory Petrenko. Against the background of alarming news about the increasing suppression of legal rights, Helmut Scholz also received an overview of how the reform of the legal system provided for in the Association Agreement is being implemented in reality.

Helmut Scholz said: “The arbitrary detention of Grigory Petrenko without any trial and the decision of the court on 9 December to extend it for another 90 days contradict all European legal standards, particularly in view of the absurd and weak accusations against Petrenko of 'mass riots against the state and the plans to occupy the General Prosecutor's Office'.”

The peaceful social protests on 6 September 2015 were primarily against rising electricity and gas prices, as well as against any further reduction of social guarantees. They called for a policy that is geared towards securing the basic needs of people and to stop the ongoing exodus of young people from the country through opening opportunities for them in the future.

The European Parliament and even the EU Commission are concerned about the rampant corruption within the ruling political elites. Also, the fact that they are increasingly entwined further infringes the separation of powers in the Republic of Moldova and mean the legal system can be subject  to personal interests. This growing political arrogance of economically powerful oligarchs undermines any long-term democratic, political and social renewal. “The arrest of Petrenko and his opposition colleagues is not an action typically used against criminals, but rather a classic means to silence dissenters.”

Scholz continued: “The constant postponement of the proceedings against the accused and the permanent intimidation of large parts of the opposition should indicate that anyone who does not abide by the current rules of the dominant forces will face unreasonable prison conditions. This should not be acceptable either to European Parliament or the parliaments of EU member states. We demand the immediate release of Petrenko, his seven opposition supporters, the immediate and full end to judicial irregularity and the extension of the meaning of the term 'political prisoner'. The restoration and a strong commitment to an independent judiciary in Moldova should be on the agenda.

The opening of a perspective for Moldovan society depends upon the opportunity for the democratic participation and social commitment of citizens. Hindering active participation will only speed up the political and economic decline of the country that is facing vast challenges from both modernisation and the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict. The first step towards a new beginning would be calls by the European Union for a strict separation of powers and ensuring an independent judiciary,” Helmut Scholz concluded.

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