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Former Romanian PM shoots self after court backs prison term

By Liliana Ciobanu, For CNN
June 21, 2012 -- Updated 1826 GMT (0226 HKT)
Former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase addresses the media as he exits the Supreme Court in Bucharest on May 2.
Former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase addresses the media as he exits the Supreme Court in Bucharest on May 2.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Lawyer to appeal to European Court for Human Rights
  • "He looks terrible," Prime Minister Ponta says
  • It is the first prison sentence for a senior politician in Romania since the fall of communism
  • The former prime minister was convicted of illegally raising campaign funds

(CNN) -- Former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was hospitalized Wednesday after an apparent suicide attempt that took place hours after the Supreme Court confirmed his two-year prison sentence for illegally raising campaign funds, the government said.

The Public Ministry said in a news release that Nastase, 61, shot himself in the neck late Wednesday night, when a police team arrived at his residence to inform him of his arrest.

He told the police to wait while he went to get books from his home library, then shot himself there, the ministry said. He was taken to Floreasca Hospital in Bucharest.

"He looks terrible," Prime Minister Victor Ponta told reporters after visiting Nastase in the hospital, which did not release Nastase's condition.

The decision by Romania's Supreme Court is final. But Nastase's lawyer, Ioan Cazacu, said he will appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.

Nastase won't be allowed to run for or serve in public office for two years after he completes his prison sentence.

The high court found Nastase guilty of illegally raising €1.6 million ($2.1 million) during his 2004 election campaign, when he ran for president on behalf of the Social Democrat Party. The conviction came after more than 1,000 days of trial and testimony from more than 900 witnesses.

Nastase has had no comment on the court's decision.

The case was nicknamed the Quality Trophy, a reference to a conference organized by a state construction agency in 2004 at which companies and institutions donated money that was used by Nastase to fund his campaign, prosecutors said.

The trial started in January 2009, after Nastase was accused of using his political influence as a party leader in his own interest.

He repeatedly denied the accusations and said the trial was a political one. He accused President Traian Basescu, who defeated Nastase in the 2004 election, of being behind the scandal.

Five other people charged in the case received sentences of up to six years in prison.

In a separate case, Nastase was placed on three years of probation in March after he was convicted of committing blackmail while in office. The charge had been under investigation for more than six years.

Nastase was involved in another case, known as the Aunt Tamara case, in which he was accused of paying a $400,000 bribe to the former head of the country's anti-money-laundering agency to delete some documents related to his wife's bank account. Nastase was found not guilty in that case.

Nastase served as Romania's premier from 2000 to 2004 and remained an important figure in his Social Democrat Party. The party took power in May, after the former government's collapse.

Wednesday's decision marks the first prison sentence for a senior politician in Romania since the fall of communism in the country in 1989. The sentence marks the first important signal from Romania to the European Union that it is serious about trying to tackle corruption.

The country has been criticized by Brussels in recent years for failing to enact judicial reform and to solve corruption cases involving high-profile politicians.

Concern about corruption in Romania led northern European countries last year to block the country from joining the European Union's Schengen passport-free area.

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