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Ex-Romania PM Nastase undergoes surgery after apparent suicide attempt

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June 20, 2012: Paramedics attend to former Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase in an ambulance in Bucharest, Romania.AP

A former Romanian former prime minister who shot himself in the neck hours after being sentenced to prison successfully underwent surgery Thursday, bringing more high drama to a case that has sent shockwaves through this Eastern European nation.

Adrian Nastase was rushed to the hospital Wednesday after shooting himself in apparent reaction to the Supreme Court's decision that he must serve a two-year prison sentence on corruption charges. The ruling made him the most senior Romanian politician to be sentenced to prison since the 1989 end of communism.

One of the most prominent politicians of the past two decades, Nastase had appealed a March 30 court ruling that sentenced him to prison for illegally raising funds for a failed presidential campaign. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence on Wednesday.

The trial sent a signal to the European Union, which had urged Romania to crack down on endemic corruption, that the country was finally tackling high-level graft. The Eastern European nation's legal system has often been criticized for being under political influence.

Surgeon Serban Bradisteanu said doctors successfully performed surgery Thursday on Nastase's gunshot wounds, and he will remain in intensive care. The former prime minister's condition is complicated by diabetes and cardiac problems, Bradisteanu said.

Prosecutors went to Nastase's home on Thursday and took away his gun collection, which he was licensed to have. Nastase's lawyer Ion Cazacu said he would apply Thursday for a three-month delay, the legal limit, to the start of Nastase's sentence.

Nastase's sentencing and his apparent suicide attempt stunned Romania.

Dramatic details emerged from friends and politicians, who cited eyewitnesses. When police came to arrest Nastase late Wednesday, they said, he told them he wanted to take some books with him. In fact, Nastase went to get a gun. He tried to shoot himself in the head, but was prevented by a police officer, said former Education Minister Ecaterina Antonescu.

Former President Ion Iliescu, a close ally, said that the police attempt to execute the court order was "inhumane." He said Nastase, who will turn 62 on Friday, considered himself innocent. Senior opposition member Vasile Blaga called the shooting "shocking" and "a tragedy."

Prime Minister Victor Ponta visited Nastase after the shooting and darkly pointed the finger at Romanian President Traian Basescu.

"Nastase looks terrible" he said. "I wonder if Basescu is happy now?"

Nastase has insisted that he is innocent and says the case is politically motivated. Nastase was prime minister from 2000 to 2004 and headed the Social Democracy Party from 2000 to 2005. He also served as foreign minister from 1990 to 1992, and was also parliamentary speaker.

A former law professor, he is known for his love of hunting, fishing, classical music and collection of paintings and antiques.