Romanian senator resigns to allow manslaughter investigation

September 23, 2016 11:11 AM EDT

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A Romanian politician who escaped a potential manslaughter investigation due to his parliamentary immunity said on Friday he would resign from the senate to allow the probe to go ahead.

Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in protest at the Senate's decision to shut down the investigation - a case they say is a symptom of wider corruption in the political system that is under scrutiny from the European Union.

In late 2015, Gabriel Oprea, then deputy prime minister, was traveling in a motorcade to which he was not entitled when Bogdan Gigina, one of his police escorts, died after his motorbike hit a pothole in rainy conditions.

Anti-corruption prosecutors had asked senators to approve an inquiry into whether Oprea, by using the motorcade, was responsible for the accident, but they declined, sparking the street protests that were due to continue later on Friday.

"I am not hiding behind any immunity and, like the Gigina family, I want the truth about the accident," Oprea said on his Facebook account. He has denied wrongdoing.

On Thursday, he said he would ask the senate to repeat the vote and approve the inquiry this time around, but it was unclear whether procedures allowed it.

"To disperse all doubt, I am announcing that I will resign from the senate," Oprea said.

Once his resignation becomes official, prosecutors need approval for the inquiry from the president, a legal requirement for all former cabinet ministers.

President Klaus Iohannis had criticized the senate vote to stop the investigation and is likely to greenlight it.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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