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Nine Romanian police officers prosecuted over violent facemask arrest

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A riot police officer stands outside the Romanian parliament building in Bucharest.
A riot police officer stands outside the Romanian parliament building in Bucharest.   -   Copyright  FILE - AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda
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Nine Romanian police officers have been accused of torture or complicity in torture in their treatment of two people after they arrested them for failing to wear facemasks.

The claims refer to an incident on September 1 in Bucharest when officers allegedly "punished" two people they had arrested by beating one and abandoning both on the outskirts of the capital city.

Romanian prosecutors connected to the Bucharest Tribunal launched criminal proceedings into the matter on Wednesday.

The nine officers - from Section 16 of the Bucharest police - are accused of "crimes of deprivation of liberty" and torture.

Eight of the suspects were detained by authorities, while the ninth was also held under "judicial control".

The nine officers were all part of a police patrol operating on Calea Serban Voda in the south of the capital, Romania's public prosecutor said in a statement.

In the early hours of the morning, the officers saw two people - who have only been identified by their initials - not wearing facemasks.

One month prior to this, Romania introduced new measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, including the mandatory wearing of face coverings in certain open spaces.

Prosecutors say that seven officers carrying weapons "deprived" one of the individuals of their liberty, handcuffing and transporting them to "vacant land" outside the city.

"There, they exercised physical violence on the victim for about 30 minutes," prosecutors added.

Five officers are accused of applying repeated blows with blunt objects to the victim's upper body, head, upper and lower limbs, fingers, and feet, according to the statement.

"At the same time, one of the defendants subjected the injured person to degrading treatments," prosecutors said.

Two police officers are alleged to have "passively witnessed the violence". After the beating, the victim was left abandoned on the vacant land.

Meanwhile, the other victim was "illegally handcuffed" by two other officers and locked in a police vehicle on top of two car wheels.

"They transported [the second victim] to the Zetari area of ​​Bucharest, where they untied and abandoned them on a dark street," prosecutors said.

Speaking on Romanian television, Interior Minister Lucian Bode condemned the allegations, stating that police officers are "not allowed to have such an attitude".

An investigation is being carried out by the Romanian Prosecutor's Office in Bucharest, alongside the country's General Anticorruption Directorate.