A Romanian court has deferred a decision on whether to grant a retrial to the former leader of the Social Democratic Party, Liviu Dragnea, who is serving a prison sentence on corruption charges.
The five judges at the High Court of Cassation and Justice said Tuesday they needed more time to deliberate and would issue a ruling on Jan. 21.
Dragnea was sentenced in May 2019 to 3 ½ years in prison for instigating official misconduct.
The court ruled that Dragnea, 57,used his influence to procure fake public sector jobs for women who were working for the party. At the time, he was head of the Teleorman county council.
The former strongman, who appeared in court Tuesday morning “I am completely innocent, and I’ve been in prison for eight months, an innocent person” he said.
He told the court he would not pay the damages he was ordered to pay because”It doesn’t seem normal for me to pay for something I haven’t done.”
Romania’s high court in December rejected another appeal to get his sentence overturned/
Dragnea, who was also speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, was seen as Romania’s most powerful politician after the Social Democrats won 2016 parliamentary elections.
The party then embarked on a contentious judicial overhaul that critics said would water down the fight against high-level corruption and make it much harder to pursue corruption cases. The move sparked the biggest street protests since the end of communism and drew rebuke from the European Union and U.S. State Department.
He was sent to trial in 2016 and was jailed on May 27, 2019, a day after the party suffered big losses in European Parliament elections.
He’s also on trial on suspicion he illegally obtained EU funds for a road project in southern Romania.