Divisive influencer Andrew Tate awaits Romanian court ruling
BUCHAREST, Romania -- The divisive social media personality and self-described misogynist Andrew Tate waited Tuesday for a Romanian court to rule on his appeal of his 30-day arrest on charges of human trafficking, rape and being part of an organized crime group.
Tate, 36, a British-U.S. citizen who has 4.5 million followers on Twitter, was initially detained on Dec. 29 for 24 hours along with his brother Tristan, who was charged in the same case. Two Romanian women also were taken into custody.
All four challenged a judge's Dec. 30 decision to grant prosecutors' request to extend the arrest period to 30 days. A document explaining the judge's reasoning said "the possibility of them evading investigations cannot be ignored," and that they could "leave Romania and settle in countries that do not allow extradition."
Tate and the other three defendants arrived at Bucharest's Court of Appeal in handcuffs Tuesday and were taken away in the afternoon. Eugen Vidineac, a Romanian defense lawyer representing Tate, told journalists after a morning hearing that "all four of the accused have made statements" and that "the lawyers' pleas were listened to entirely."
"The court has to decide. We hope for a positive solution for our clients," Vidineac said.
A decision on the appeal was expected later Tuesday, Vidineac told The Associated Press.
Tate, a former professional kickboxer, is reported to have lived in Romania since 2017, previously was banned from various prominent social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech. The week of his arrest, he traded insults on Twitter with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Romania's anti-organized crime agency DIICOT said it had identified six victims in the trafficking case who were subjected to "acts of physical violence and mental coercion" and were sexually exploited by the members of the alleged crime group.
The agency said victims were lured by pretenses of love, and later intimidated, kept under surveillance and subjected to other control tactics while being coerced into performing pornographic acts that were intended to make money for the alleged persecutors.
Prosecutors investigating the case have seized 15 luxury cars, at least seven of which were owned by the Tate brothers, and more than 10 properties or land owned by companies registered to them, DIICOT spokesperson Ramona Bolla said.
Bolla said that if prosecutors can prove the Tates gained money through human trafficking, the assets "will be taken by the state and (will) cover the expenses of the investigation and damages to the victims."
If the appeals court upholds the arrest warrant extension, prosecutors then could request detentions of up to 180 days for the four people charged. If the court grants the appeal, the defendants could be put under house arrest or banned from leaving Romania.
Since Tate's arrest, a series of ambiguous posts have appeared on his Twitter account. Each tweet garners widespread media attention.
One, posted Sunday and accompanied by a Romanian report suggesting he or his brother have required medical care since their arrests, read: "The Matrix has attacked me. But they misunderstand, you cannot kill an idea. Hard to Kill."
Another post, from Saturday, read: "Going to jail when guilty of a crime is the life story of a criminal ... going to jail when completely innocent is the story of a hero."
Hope not Hate, a U.K. advocacy group, said it monitored Tate for years "because of his close links to the far right." It described the influencer in a report it produced last year as an "extreme misogynist" who holds conspiratorial views.
"Our major concern is that his brand of extreme and sometimes violent misogyny is reaching a young male audience and that he could serve as a gateway to wider far-right politics," Hope not Hate said in a statement after Tate was banned by Facebook parent company Meta in August.