Dan Adamescu’s trial was short and did not meet the standards of a fair trial expected in liberal democracies. The trial followed a series of explicitly political public pronouncements which exposed the political motivations behind the accusations against him.
On May 24th, 2014, then Prime Minister of Romania Victor Ponta publicly declared Dan Adamescu guilty of bribery on national television. He alleged that Adamescu had “led a network of corruption to such a great effect over a period of many years”.
Two weeks after Prime Minister Ponta appeared on television, Dan Adamescu was arrested by masked anti-terror police. Much of what happened in those days following his arrest was a PR stunt on behalf of Prime Minister Ponta. Adamescu was paraded on television in handcuffs and named as a criminal – before he had appeared in court. Such public pronouncements and political declarations made it all but impossible for Dan Adamescu’s trial to be fair.
Indeed, in the pre-trial detention hearing the judge referred to “the seriousness of the illegal actions committed by him”. The judge defied the presumption of innocence required for a fair trial by treating the accusations as fact rather than the unproved allegations they were.
The entire case rested on the testimony of a single witness who had admitted to embezzling funds from Adamescu’s business. This witness claimed he was acting on Dan Adamescu’s behalf in order to bribe judges. There was no additional evidence to support his claim, and no paper or financial trail except for that of this witnesses’ own embezzlement. This was despite the Romanian authorities’ attempts to gather evidence through surveillance before Adamescu’s arrest. This witness was not prosecuted for his crimes.
Dan Adamescu’s trial
A judge thought a single day, February 2nd, 2015, was enough time to assess a complex case and examine witnesses – this limited time meant that the judge did not meaningfully examine the evidence provided in Adamescu’s defence. This was the extent of Dan Adamescu’s trial.
The judge declared Dan Adamescu guilty of ordering a payment of €20,000 (£17,000) as bribes for the judges handling the insolvency proceedings of two companies which were part of Adamescu’s Nova Group. Adamescu was sentenced to four years and four months in prison.
Independent NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers described the judgement as the result of “a swift show trial…on the basis of a single denunciation by a tainted witness”.
The disrespect for the rule of law and fair trials continued into the appeals process, as the Court of Cassation declared one of the main reasons it was denying an appeal hearing was that “the defendant[s] continue to deny committing the crimes of which they stand accused.” Quite simply, Dan Adamescu was not prepared to admit to something he had not done.
Human Rights Without Frontiers have said they believe the allegations against Dan Adamescu were politically motivated, due to his role as the publisher of Romania Libera: “There is strong evidence that during his time in office, [Prime Minister] Ponta personally ordered the proceedings against Dan Adamescu on bribery charges of 20,000 euros, amongst other things, as retribution for the paper’s unflattering press coverage.”
NGO Fair Trials International has used Dan Adamescu’s trial as an example of an unfair trial which defies the principle of the presumption of innocence.