15 May 2008 Bucharest _ Romania’s Justice Court have given the country’s President a reprieve over comments in which he referred to a ‘stinky Gypsy.’
Traian Basescu was heard making the statement on May 19 last year, while a journalist was filmed him shopping with his wife.
Basescu snatched the journalist’s phone with which she was filming after she was told to stop several times.
When the President returned her phone, the journalist discovered a conversation between the President and his wife was recorded without their knowledge, and Basescu could be heard referring to the journalist as a ‘stinky Gypsy.’
The case was discussed last summer by the National Council for the Fight against Discrimination, CNCD, which issued Basescu with a warning.
Basescu disputed this at the Appellate Court but it was rejected although the Justice Court on Thursday upheld his appeal.
The President’s lawyer, Robert Ros, claimed that the recording of Basescu’s comments were illegally obtained and was private comment.
The CNCD representative, Cristian Nuica, said under European Court law, the public and the private lives of politicians are combined since they are people in the public eye.
The CNCD president, Csaba Asztalos, added that in a country where 70 percent of the population says they would not like Gypsy (Roma) neighbours, such a statement made by the President could have negative consequences.
After the incident in May 2007, Basescu apologised to the journalist.
The Presidency said in a press release that Basescu’s statement was due to “media and public pressure, and not the attitude of the President towards the Gypsy community in Romania.”