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Polish MP claims he is 'political prisoner' after arrest on abuse of power charge

by Elsa Court January 10, 2024 6:43 PM 2 min read
Mariusz Kaminski, former Polish Minister of Internal Affairs in the PiS government and former head of the Central Anticorruption Bureau, on Dec. 20, 2023. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)
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Polish lawmaker Mariusz Kaminski claimed he is a "political prisoner" and will start a hunger strike on Jan. 10, the day after his dramatic arrest inside Poland's presidential palace.

The news comes after weeks of political turmoil between the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party and the current pro-EU coalition government, which is led by newly-elected Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

While in power between 2015 and 2023, PiS had been criticized both within Poland and in the EU for leading Poland towards an illiberal democracy, similar to Hungary, due to its control over state media and undermining judicial independence.

Kaminski, a former PiS interior minister, and Maciej Wasik, his former deputy, had been found guilty of abuse of power on Dec. 20, a charge related to their positions heading Poland's anti-corruption agency in 2007. Both were sentenced to two years in prison.  

The lawmakers and Polish President Andrzej Duda have said they do not recognize the court's ruling since they received a presidential pardon from Duda in 2015.

The legality of this pardon is disputed because it was given while the men were appealing their conviction, and therefore before a final decision on the case was made.

Polish police arrested the PiS lawmakers inside the presidential palace on Jan. 9. Shortly before their arrest, Kaminski told the press from inside the palace grounds that "a grim dictatorship is being created" and that there is a "very serious state crisis."

Tusk reacted at a press conference that the situation was "unbelievable." Interior Minister Marcin Kierwinsky posted on X that evening that "everyone is equal before the law."

"I want to say clearly that if a politician is in prison, it does not mean that he is a political prisoner," Deputy Justice Minister Maria Ejchart said on Jan. 10.

Duda announced on social media on Jan. 10 that he "will not rest" until the lawmakers are free and argued that his 2015 pardon was in line with the constitution.  

Opinion: What Donald Tusk’s return means for Poland
This week, Donald Tusk won a vote of confidence in Poland’s parliament to lead a new government as the country’s new prime minister, following a failed bid by the incumbent, Mateusz Morawiecki to remain in that role. The vote provoked a visibly nervous reaction from the leader
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