Romania probes logger assault claim by filmmakers

Romanian police said Friday they were investigating accusations by two filmmakers and an activist who say they were beaten while documenting suspected cases of illegal logging amid a rise in forestry crime.

“We already identified 11 persons involved in the incident and brought them in for questioning”, police spokesman Georgian Dragan told a news conference.

The three victims — Mihai Dragolea and Radu Mocanu, filmmakers and journalists, and activist Tiberiu Bosutar — said that on Thursday they were assaulted “by 15 to 20 men” while filming a documentary about illegal logging in a forest in Romania’s northeastern county of Suceava.

“They came at us with bats and axes screaming ‘we’ll kill you'”, Dragolea told local media, adding that their video equipment was destroyed and their recordings erased.

In a live video interview given right after the incident, activist Bosutar was in an ambulance on its way to a hospital, part of his face covered in blood.

In Romania, which harbours some of the last virgin forests in Europe and diverse wildlife species, those trying to protect nature often come under threat.

Earlier this year, a forest ranger was attacked by five men in his own yard after he had caught them stealing timber.

In 2019 two rangers were killed within a month of each other in different parts of the country while trying to stop alleged timber thieves.

“Things have gone too far. We cannot accept such acts which threaten the lives of those trying to defend the forest”, Environment Minister Barna Tanczos said in a Facebook post.

Greenpeace estimates that up to 20 million cubic metres of wood (700 million cubic feet) are illegally harvested each year in the EU member country where the timber sector is worth more than six billion euros ($6.6 billion).

Since the beggining of this year the police has seen a rise in forestry crimes.

“In the first eight months of this year we made over 27,000 checks across the country and found 6,500 violations of the forestry regime, 63% more than in the same period of the same year”, said Dragan.,50625703.html

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