Romanian court releases ex-PM Nastase from jail

Romania's ex-prime minister Adrian Nastase, serving a two-year prison sentence for corruption, was freed on Monday after a Bucharest court rejected a prosecution appeal against his release.

Awaited by his elder son Andrei, friends and numerous journalists, Nastase left the Jilava jail, near Bucharest, on Monday evening without making any statement.

Anti-graft prosecutors had contested a February court decision that granted early release to the Social Democrat who was premier from 2000 to 2004.

Nastase, 62, has served a third of his jail sentence and is entitled under Romanian law to be freed.

He was convicted in June for siphoning off funds totalling about 1.5 million euros ($1.8 million) for his 2004 re-election campaign.

Prosecutors said public institutions and private companies were pressured into taking part in a 2004 construction contest with participation fees passing through several accounts before ending up paying for Nastase's presidential campaign posters.

He has always denied the charges saying he was victim of a "political trial".

The former premier tried to commit suicide by shooting himself a few hours after he was handed the jail sentence in June, but he was quickly rushed to hospital.

Nastase is the most senior figure to have been convicted in Romania's anti-corruption drive. He is described by analysts as the political mentor of Romania's current Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Romania's judiciary has been under close scrutiny from the European Commission since 2007, with Brussels insisting on more efforts to fight high-level corruption in the former Communist country.

Nastase is facing one more trial, after prosecutors charged him with receiving some 630,000 euros ($841,000) in bribes from a construction company owner in exchange for appointing her head of the State Construction Inspectorate.