No pardon for former football star Gica Popescu, Romanian president says

No pardon for former football star Gica Popescu, Romanian president says


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

Romanian President Traian Basescu last night hinted he would not pardon Gica Popescu, former international football player, imprisoned early March in a resounding corruption case that shook the Romanian football, after calls for the head of state to secure the release of the former FC Barcelona star.

“If during my first term I had doubts concerning the will of the justice sector to properly work, in the second I no longer had reasons to believe most of the justice was not working. I started from the premise that, rather than a man I respected and I still respect, admired and still admire, that I know more or less, so between such a man and respecting a judge I preferred to respect the judge that I do not even know in person” Basescu said last night in a press conference.

The President added he signed “not many” pardoning decrees during the first term, but pointed out he signed none over the second term, not even for humanitarian reasons. Basescu questioned though whether behind the public campaign to pardon Popescu was somebody’s money, without further details about who he was hinting at. “I find it a powerful and unjustified campaign” he added.

His statements came on the same day mother of George Becali, owner of FC Steaua Bucharest, the largest and most notorious football club in Romania, also imprisoned in a land swap affair, came to the presidential palace to submit a pardon application for his son. Becali is said to suffer from severe back pains and needs a surgery immediately, his lawyer says.

Gica Popescu was sentenced on 3 March to three years of jail in a shady transfer file which also sent another seven bosses of the Romanian football behind the bars. But Popescu’s prison term divided the Romanian society with many calling for his pardon by President Basescu.

“We do not know to respect our values” former tennis player Ilie Nastase reacted amid the heated debate which took populist notes as politicians joined it. But many say Popescu should serve his term and should not be placed above the law just because he has a famous name. Polls showed most Romanians do not want Popescu to be released from jail.

But the debate was cut short after, from prison, Popescu said he doesn’t seek to be pardoned. “I don’t need something like that now. I was given a sentence which I will serve. I abide by the law and do not think of this now”, he said.