February 29, 2024

A state crisis looms – the convicts escape to the presidential palace

January 9, 2024, 9:00 pmJanuary 9, 2024 at 9:33 pm

In fact, former Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and his former Foreign Minister Maciej Wasik should have started their two-year prison sentences on Tuesday. But when police officers searched their apartments, they came up empty: two MPs from the ruling Law and Justice Party who had been legally found guilty of abuse of power had left.

Former Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski.Image: Cornerstone

A little later, astonished Poles discovered from the location of the presidential office on platform They remained there for several hours, and were finally arrested in the evening, as announced by the police in Warsaw on X.

epa10976697 A view of the illuminated part of the 'Royal Garden of Light' in Wilano, Warsaw, Poland, on the evening of November 15, 2023. The popular autumn and winter exhibition at the King Jan I Museum...

Polish Presidential Palace in Warsaw.Image: Cornerstone

What looks like a farce is actually an escalation of the conflict between the new and old government camps in Poland, which could turn into a national crisis for the European Union and the NATO member state. The power struggle has escalated between the center-left government of Donald Tusk, which has been in power since December 15, and the left-voting nationalist conservative Law and Justice Party, to which President Duda also belongs.

The parliament session, which was scheduled to be held on Wednesday, was postponed until next week due to the chaotic situation. Tusk threatened Duda and PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski that they would bear responsibility for “subverting the constitution.”

Meanwhile, it looked as if PiS MPs wanted under an arrest warrant had found protection in President Duda's palace. In the afternoon, Kaminsky and Wasik talked in the courtyard. “We are not hiding. “At the moment we are with the Polish president until evil loses,” Kaminski said. He did not say how long they planned to stay there. In the evening, the police entered the area and arrested the politicians. According to Polish media reports, Duda is said to have left the building beforehand.

Duda pardoned the convicts several years ago

The issue of PiS politicians has a long history. In 2015, immediately after PiS came to power, Duda pardoned Kaminski and Vasek in a controversial decision. Both had previously been sentenced in a lower court to three years in prison for abuse of office. The reason for the conviction was a case uncovered in 2007, in which the anti-corruption agency, then headed by Kaminsky, was said to have deliberately engineered a corruption case in order to discredit then-Agriculture Minister Andrei Lieber. Kaminski and Wasik appealed the ruling.

epa10884201 Polish President Andrzej Duda (center) and Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski (left) visit a border guard post in the village of Orszwiec, eastern Poland, on September 26, 2023. Polish President Andrzej Duda...

Mariusz Kaminski and Andrzej Duda in September 2023.Image: Cornerstone

Last June, the Supreme Court overturned the presidential pardon for Kaminsky and Vasek. According to the reasons for the ruling, pardon is only permissible for those who have been legally convicted. Both had to face trial again. At the end of December, the Warsaw District Court sentenced her to two years in prison. The court also ordered that PiS politicians will not be allowed to hold public office for five years and they will lose their parliamentary mandate.

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Duda has stressed several times in the past few days that the amnesty, in his view, is still in effect – and Poland's leading constitutional lawyers see it differently. Both politicians announced that they wanted to continue fulfilling their mandate as representatives and appear in parliamentary sessions.

Tusk Call

In the afternoon, a visibly upset Prime Minister Tusk sent clear words to Duda: “Mr. President, my fervent appeal for the good of the Polish state: you must put an end to this spectacle. It will lead us to a very dangerous situation.” The measures targeted the foundations of the state.

Regarding the president's behavior, Tusk also quoted Polish criminal law: “Any person who obstructs or frustrates criminal proceedings by helping a criminal to evade criminal responsibility (…) will be punished with imprisonment for a period of three months to up to 100 years.” Punish him for five years.” He warned that Duda and PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski would bear responsibility for their actions. However, Tusk clearly ruled out the violent arrest of Kaminski and Vasek at the presidential palace. (DAP/SDA/DPA)

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