Thousands join anti-government protests in Romania

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An estimated 24,000 protesters gathered in front of the government's headquarters in Bucharest, waving the national flag and shouting  "Thieves!"

An estimated 24,000 protesters gathered in front of the government's headquarters in Bucharest, waving the national flag and shouting  "Thieves!" (AFP Photo/Daniel MIHAILESCU)

Bucharest (AFP) - Thousands of people rallied in Bucharest on Saturday calling for the government's resignation, exactly one year after a demonstration was violently suppressed by security forces.

According to the Romanian news agency Agerpres, an estimated 24,000 protesters gathered outside the government's headquarters in the capital, waving the national flag and shouting "Thieves!" and "Resign!".

"The country is going in the wrong direction. There's no future for young people," 19-year-old medical student Bogdan Iliescu told AFP.

"We want a government that works for us, not in its own interests," he said.

Another demonstrator, 60-year-old Lenuta Iancu, said she had come to protest against "the daily injustices" such as widespread political corruption and a dilapidated healthcare system.

Both had been among some 80,000 people dispersed by tear gas, water cannons and rubber batons at a peaceful rally at the same site on August 10, 2018.

More than 450 people were hurt and 700 filed complaints against the security forces. But a year on, the investigations against police chiefs have stalled.

Romania's centre-right president Klaus Iohannis -- who regularly clashes with the Social Democrat government of Prime Minister Viorica Dancila -- has described last year's events as a "tragedy" and urged police not to resort to force this time round.

The demonstrators on Saturday also paid tribute to two teenage girls, Alexandra and Luiza, whose killings shocked the country and sparked street protests.

A suspect from the southern town of Caracal has confessed to the separate kidnappings and murders of the girls.

Authorities came under fire after it emerged that one of the girls, aged 15, made three calls to emergency services to report her own kidnapping but that the police failed to react in time.

Several top officials including police chief Ioan Buda and interior minister Nicolae Moga have been sacked over the affair.