Polish police storm presidential palace and arrest two parliament members

The recent arrest of former Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik within the Presidential Palace in Warsaw has marked an unprecedented and highly contentious episode in the nation’s political landscape.

The former Polish interior minister, Mariusz Kaminski, and deputy interior minister, Maciej Wasik, were apprehended by the police within the confines of the presidential palace in Warsaw, marking an unprecedented episode in the country’s political landscape.

Both Kaminski and Wasik received a two-year jail sentence in the prior month for their involvement in abuse of power during their tenure leading an anti-corruption office in 2007.

Subsequent to these arrests, Marcin Kierwinski, the new interior minister, commented on the situation, stating “Everyone is equal before the law.”

The events underscore the ongoing political turbulence between the Law and Justice (PiS) party and the newly formed pro-European Union coalition.

Despite being elected as PiS MPs in October, both individuals refused to acknowledge the recent court ruling. Their stance stemmed from President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, having granted them a pardon in 2015 for the crime. President Duda has persistently asserted the validity of this pardon and, as a consequence, does not recognize the court’s decision.

Although both Kaminski and Wasik have been relieved of their parliamentary mandates, they and President Duda maintain their status as legally elected MPs due to the presidential pardon.

In a sequence of events, the court issued a warrant for the arrest of the two men. However, President Duda invited them to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw the following day to participate in a ceremony to swear in two former colleagues as presidential advisers.

After a brief encounter with reporters, where Kaminski expressed concerns about being considered “political prisoners” if arrested and thanked President Duda for his backing, they returned inside the palace premises amidst the unfolding political drama.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, addressing a press conference, described the situation as “unbelievable.” He emphasized the necessity to honor the court’s ruling and insinuated that President Duda’s actions were aiding the men in evading justice.

Following the arrests, hundreds of PiS supporters rallied outside the palace in solidarity with the detained individuals.

The complex legal dispute involves conflicting interpretations of the validity of President Duda’s 2015 pardon, contested by the Polish Supreme Court last year, which argued it was invalid as it was issued during the appeal process, prior to the final conviction. President Duda maintains the pardon’s legality, a view supported by the Constitutional Tribunal and a newly constituted Supreme Court chamber, both of which are primarily composed of judges nominated by PiS.

In response to the ongoing political tussle, the coalition led by Mr. Tusk, which assumed office recently, pledged to reverse PiS’s alterations to the judiciary, public media, and civil service. This was viewed as actions undermining the rule of law by various international bodies including the European Commission.

The coalition’s initial steps involved reforms within state-owned media, previously transformed into a government mouthpiece under PiS. However, the methods employed mirrored those of the PiS government, involving government officials replacing media boards before planned legislative reforms.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights acknowledged the challenges posed by PiS’s changes within the public media, calling for “urgent reform,” while also expressing serious concerns about the new government’s approach.

Former PiS prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki criticized Mr. Tusk’s government, alleging a lack of adherence to democratic standards, labeling their actions as an unprecedented assault on the rule of law. Morawiecki emphasized the forceful takeover of public television and media, criticizing it as contradictory to democratic principles.

Given PiS’s history of controlling state institutions during its tenure, supporters of Tusk argue that accusations of hypocrisy against the coalition are unfounded.

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