Europe

Romania: justice minister stands by diluted graft law

  • A child waves a Romanian flag during a protest joined by tens of thousands against a government decree that dilutes what qualifies as corruption, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two nights after the government changed the law — one of the biggest protests in Romania since communism ended in 1989. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    A child waves a Romanian flag during a protest joined by tens of thousands against a government decree that dilutes what qualifies as corruption, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two nights after the government changed the law — one of the biggest protests in Romania since communism ended in 1989. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • A man waves a large Romanian flag during a protest joined by tens of thousands against a government decree that dilutes what qualifies as corruption, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two nights after the government changed the law — one of the biggest protests in Romania since communism ended in 1989. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    A man waves a large Romanian flag during a protest joined by tens of thousands against a government decree that dilutes what qualifies as corruption, in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two nights after the government changed the law — one of the biggest protests in Romania since communism ended in 1989. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

  • A protester waving a Romanian flag during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two nights after the government changed the law - one of the biggest protests in Romania since communism ended in 1989. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    A protester waving a Romanian flag during a protest in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Huge protests erupted in the capital and spread to cities around Romania in the past two nights after the government changed the law - one of the biggest protests in Romania since communism ended in 1989. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

Romania's justice minister says he stands by a law diluting the country's anti-corruption fight, defying strong criticism from home and abroad and days of massive protests.

Florin Iordache had temporarily handed his duties over to a subordinate, but returned to his job Friday, and told reporters: "I take responsibility for this ordinance." The ruling center-left Social Democratic Party has defended the decree, which has sparked some of the biggest protests since the 1989 fall of communism

Romania's Constitutional Court will rule on the legality of the law next week, the last legal resort to stop it.

Amid strong international criticism, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. was "deeply concerned" about recent measures "that undermine rule of law and weaken accountability for financial and corruption-related crimes."