[1/5] Marina Tauber, leader of the opposition pro-Russian political party Shor, delivers a speech during a hearing of the Constitutional Court in Chisinau, Moldova, June 19, 2023. REUTERS/Vladislav Culiomza
CHISINAU, June 19 (Reuters) - Moldova's Constitutional Court on Monday banned the pro-Russian Shor party that has led months of protests and is headed by an exiled businessman accused by the West and the government of trying to destabilise the country.
The court declared the party led by Ilan Shor, who lives in Israel, unconstitutional. Its decision triggered an immediate ban and the justice ministry will create a commission to complete all legal procedures for the party's dissolution.
Shor was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in jail in April over a $1 billion bank scandal and money laundering, and has had sanctions imposed on him by both the United States and the European Union.
He did not immediately comment on the court's decision, under which the party's lawmakers will keep their seats as independents but will not be able to join other factions.
Before the ruling, party vice-chairman Marina Tauber had condemned the court proceedings as "shameful".
"We will still come to power with our team," she said. "Citizens must have the right to free choice."
Announcing the ruling, court chairman Nicolae Rosca cited an article in the constitution stating that parties must through their activities uphold political pluralism, the rule of law and the territorial integrity of Moldova.
The party won six of the 101 seats in parliament in the last national election in 2021. Since last summer, it has led protests in the capital Chisinau at which demonstrators have called for the resignation of President Maia Sandu and her pro-Western government over rising prices.
Welcoming the court's decision, Sandu said: "A political party created out of corruption and for corruption is a threat to the constitutional order and security of the state."
Sandu has accused Shor of attempting to destabilise Moldova and trying to undermine the small former Soviet republic's bid to join the EU. She has also accused Russia of plotting to overthrow her.
Shor has denied the protests are part of a Russian threat or of attempts to destabilise Moldova. Russia, which has about 1,500 troops stationed in Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestria, has denied plotting to overthrow Sandu.
Parliamentary speaker Igor Grosu said the court's decision was "an important victory for Moldovan democracy".
Opposition Socialist Party leader Igor Dodon said Sandu's governing Action and Solidarity Party had "officially become totalitarian, destroying opposition forces" and that it would eventually suffer the same fate as the Shor party.
Reporting by Alexander Tanas, Writing by Anna Pruchnicka, editing by Timothy Heritage, Mark Heinrich and Ed Osmond
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