Romanian far-right leader denies wrongdoing as prosecutors launch election fraud probe

People attend protest against the introduction of COVID passes

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian prosecutors said on Wednesday they were investigating an election fraud case, four days before European and local polls, and a far-right party leader said he was the subject of their probe.

A statement from prosecutors said a parliamentary party leader incited his staff to falsify signatures to help an independent fringe candidate meet the required threshold needed to run in Sunday's polls.

While the statement did not identify the party leader, George Simion, the head of the far-right Alliance for Uniting Romanians (AUR) issued a statement saying the investigation against him was politically motivated.

"I was expecting ... a move this week, an attempt to manipulate public opinion to remove AUR from the electoral contest," Simion said in the statement which denied any wrongdoing.

"You will not intimidate us, you will not stop us."

Opinion surveys have shown AUR, a far-right group founded five years ago which opposes migration and military aid for Ukraine, will rank second in Sunday's European election, behind the ruling coalition of leftist Social Democrats and centre-right Liberals.

The party hopes to join the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) in the European Parliament, home to Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy and Poland's opposition Law and Justice (PiS), although it is also in contact with the far-right Identity and Democracy grouping.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Ros Russell)