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FILE PHOTO: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, and the Chief of anti-corruption prosecuting agency DNA, Laura Codruta Kovesi, stand while listening the national anthem being played at the beginning of the anti-corruption agency's annual report, in Bucharest, Romania, February 28, 2018. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/File Photo via REUTERS


BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian President Klaus Iohannis signed on Monday a decree to remove chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kovesi from post following a constitutional court ruling which critics say leaves prosecutors vulnerable to political interference.

Kovesi has led the DNA anti-corruption agency since 2013 and, under her management, conviction rates have risen sharply in one of the European Union's most corrupt states, winning plaudits from Brussels who has Romania's justice system under special monitoring.

"Constitutional court rulings must be obeyed in a state that respects rule of law. The president issued the decree to remove chief prosecutor from post," presidency spokeswoman Madalina Dobrovolschi said.

Dobrovolschi said the president "warned that irrespective of the name of the new chief anti-corruption prosecutor, the DNA is obliged to continue its activity in a professional way, at the highest levels of performance."

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader called for Kovesi's dismissal in February, saying she had exceeded her authority and damaged the country's image abroad. His call drew thousands of anti-graft protesters onto the streets in opposition.

Kovesi is expected to comment on the decision at 0900 GMT.

The country's judicial watchdog had said the request was unfounded and Iohannis rejected it, prompting the government to ask the top court to decide whether his rejection had created an institutional conflict.

Legally, the president has had the final say in the dismissals of chief prosecutors, which are requested by the justice minister and need approval from the judicial watchdog, until the constitutional court ruling.

On May 30, the court ruled the president does not have the constitutional right to oppose a dismissal request legally initiated by the justice minister. Instead, he is limited to assessing the legality of the procedure.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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