Source AP ©

Phone tapping violates privacy rights

The European Court for Human Rights has considered Romanian legislation on phone tapping violating privacy rights.

Romania should abolish laws that allow prosecutors to order indefinite phone taps, the court said. It also criticized the law for not requiring prosecutors or secret services to justify why they order wiretaps.

The court - set up in Strasbourg, France, by the continent's top human rights body, the Council of Europe, to uphold human rights standards in member states - issued the ruling in a case filed by a suspect in a cigarette smuggling case who had argued that Romanian authorities had violated his human rights.

The court, whose rulings are binding for member states, also ruled that authorities did not conduct a proper investigation into complaints by the suspect, Dumitru Popescu, that he was beaten by police investigators. Despite its findings in favor of Popescu, the court awarded him no damages, saying the ruling itself was a moral reparation.

Popescu was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in helping arrange the landing of a plane loaded with contraband cigarettes on the military part of Otopeni International Airport in Bucharest.

Romanian courts also have criticized legal loopholes allowing for excessive phone taps by prosecutors, who often claim suspects threaten national security and then charge them with other, less serious offenses.

Phone tapping is believed to be widespread in Romania, and there have been several phone tapping scandals in recent years