BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's justice minister removed chief anti-corruption prosecutor Daniel Morar from office on Monday, a dismissal observers said could weaken the country's efforts to fight graft among top politicians.
Morar has won praise from the European Commission for trying to investigate graft allegations against former government ministers and other senior officials, but some local politicians have accused him of bias.
Last month, the European Commission accused Romania in a monitoring report of dragging its feet in fighting abuse, especially at senior levels. In particular, it blamed parliament for blocking investigations launched by prosecutors.
But politicians from the ruling Liberal party and some opposition deputies have said prosecutors' anti-corruption efforts were politically motivated and called for Morar's removal. His three-year appointment expires this week.
"This is very bad news for Romania. It sends a clear message that whoever starts (investigating) big files will end up like this," said Laura Stefan from the Romanian Academic Society, a think tank.
Morar launched investigations against several ex-ministers, including former prime minister Adrian Nastase, and other politicians.
But the Constitutional Court ruled the probes must be approved by parliament, and the cases were sent back to the prosecutors.
Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu said he planned to replace Morar with another prosecutor, Monica Serbanescu, in a bid to make prosecutions more credible and more effective. Serbanescu's appointment needs presidential approval.
"We are interested in having an institution capable of meeting its targets," Predoiu told a news conference.
He also offered to appoint Morar as a judicial reform representative for the government in Brussels or to make him deputy chief anti-corruption prosecutor.
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Radu Marinas; editing by Tim Pearce)