Europe

Romanian party leader denies wrongdoing in corruption case

  • FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democratic party attends a press conference in Bucharest, Romania. The chairman of Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party has denied, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, wrongdoing in a trial where he is charged with putting no-work jobs on the government payroll. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

    FILE - In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the Social Democratic party attends a press conference in Bucharest, Romania. The chairman of Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party has denied, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, wrongdoing in a trial where he is charged with putting no-work jobs on the government payroll. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • Protesters lit torches using national colors during a demonstration in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Romania has seen massive protests this month against a government decree that would have diluted the anti-corruption fight that has targeted top officials. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

    Protesters lit torches using national colors during a demonstration in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Romania has seen massive protests this month against a government decree that would have diluted the anti-corruption fight that has targeted top officials. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)  (The Associated Press)

  • People light the flashes of their mobile phones in the colors of Romania's flag during an anti-government protest in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Protesters braved freezing temperatures gathering outside the government headquarters for the 13th consecutive day to demand the government's resignation after it passed a decree that would have diluted the anti-corruption fight that has targeted top officials.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

    People light the flashes of their mobile phones in the colors of Romania's flag during an anti-government protest in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Protesters braved freezing temperatures gathering outside the government headquarters for the 13th consecutive day to demand the government's resignation after it passed a decree that would have diluted the anti-corruption fight that has targeted top officials.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)  (The Associated Press)

The chairman of Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party on Tuesday denied wrongdoing in a trial where he is charged with putting no-work jobs on the government payroll.

The case against Liviu Dragnea, one of Romania's most powerful politicians, comes from the time when he was a regional party chief. After a hearing, Dragnea said he was innocent and that testimony against him was false.

Prosecutors say Dragnea intervened to keep two women on the payroll of a family welfare agency, though they were working for the Social Democratic Party. The women have pleaded guilty. The next hearing is March 28.

Romania's center-left government passed a decree last month decriminalizing official misconduct, which would have helped Dragnea. But the decree sparked huge protests, with critics saying the government wanted to dilute the anti-corruption fight.

Premier Sorin Grindeanu withdrew the decree but protests have continued.

Dragnea is barred from being prime minister because of a two-year suspended sentence last year for vote rigging. He calls the ban deeply unfair.