20 Mar 2019 23:03

Two activists of Moldova's Platforma DA party convicted by criminal courts on Wednesday

CHISINAU. March 20 (Interfax) - Two opposition activists were found guilty and given jail sentences by Moldovan criminal courts ahead of the new parliament's first session, an Interfax correspondent reported.

Gheorghe Petic, an activist of Platforma DA, or Dignity and Truth Platform and former border police officer, has been convicted for rape and sentenced to three years and six months in prison and a 30,000-lei (approximately 1,500 euro) fine. Armed officers from the Pantera special detachment escorted Petic to the courtroom at the Orhei District Court, 50 km away from Chisinau. Several party activists, including Alexander Slusar, a newly elected MP, came over to support Petic.

As the judge was reading out the judgment, Petic held up a little flag inscribed with the names in the candidate list of ACUM, or NOW, an opposition electoral block which included Platforma DA in the recent election. He was Number 33 on the candidate list but did not make it to the Moldovan parliament, as the bloc only won 26 seats.

"These are all games played by [Vlad] Plahotniuc [the president of Democratic Party of Moldova and the most famous Moldovan oligarch], and you are criminals, because you judge the way they told you to," Petic shouted after the judge finished reading his sentence.

Several dozens of Platrofma DA supporters surrounding the court building attempted to block the exit for the vehicle in which Petic was transported to a penitentiary. Police pushed protesters back, using tear gas.

Petic became known in the summer of 2018, when he exposed a scheme of smuggling cigarettes across the Moldovan-Romanian border. Several high-ranking Moldovan officials were implicated in smuggling, he said. Petic was later detained on rape charges. He denied any wrongdoing.

Serghei Cebotari was the other Moldovan opposition activist convicted on Wednesday. He was sentenced to eight years in jail by the Ungheni District Court situated 100 km of Chisinau. He is a former employee of Posta Moldovei. Two years ago, he made whistle-blowing statements about a scheme of illegal trafficking of anabolic steroids, which was allegedly practiced at the state-run company that provides postal services in Moldova.

According to the indictment, Cebotari forced 16 individuals to work for free in a privately-owned farm. The court also ordered him to pay those individuals 299,000 lei (almost 15,000 euro). Attorneys for Cebotari said they are going to appeal the sentence.

After making his revelatory statements about Posta Moldovei, Cebotari joined the Platforma DA party. Cebotari describes the criminal case against him as 'politically motivated prosecution'.

He was absent when the judge handed down his sentence. Cebotari is believed to have left abroad, seeking asylum. In particular, that was suggested by Platforma DA leader Andrei Nastase, who was visiting Brussels on Wednesday.

As reported earlier on Wednesday, Moldovan President Igor Dodon has signed an executive order to convene the first session of the new Moldovan parliament, which was elected on February 24. Parliamentarians are due to meet at 1 p.m. on March 21.