Head of Polish church offers to “intervene with government” over jailed opposition politicians

The head of the Catholic church in Poland has offered to intervene with the government regarding two opposition politicians who were jailed last week.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki also appealed to the pair, Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, who served as ministers in the former Law and Justice (PiS) government, to end the hunger strike they have been carrying out in protest at being “political prisoners”.

One of the convicted former PiS government ministers detained yesterday at the presidential palace and taken to jail has announced a hunger strike, declaring himself to be a “political prisoner” https://t.co/hey8320QBV

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 10, 2024

On Wednesday evening, the Polish Episcopal Conference (KEP), the central organ of the Catholic church in Poland, announced that Gądecki, its president, had received a letter from Kamiński and Wąsik’s wives “requesting mediation in their case with the justice minister”.

The KEP said that, in response, Gądecki had sent a letter to the two prisoners offering to “undertake humanitarian intervention in their case with the minister”.

But, at the same time, he called on the pair to “stop the hunger protest, which threatens not only their health but also their lives”. He added, however, that he “understood the reason for their undertaking such a dramatic form of protest”.

Proponuję jednak interweniowac u @AndrzejDuda. Kościołowi nie wypada grać w tak otwartą grę polityczną PiSu, który poświęca swoich kolegów dla własnej korzyści. https://t.co/eWEcWJWahI

— Krzysztof Izdebski (@K_Izdebski) January 17, 2024

Kamiński, who served as interior minister and minister in charge of the security services, and Wąsik, who was his deputy minister, were dramatically detained last week in the presidential palace, where they had sought refuge after a court ordered them to begin serving two-year prison sentences.

They received those sentences in a long-running case in which they were found to have abused their powers during an investigation while leading Poland’s anti-corruption office.

However, the pair claim that not only are they innocent, but that they received pardons from President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, in 2015, meaning the conviction they should not serve their prison sentences. Duda also maintains that the pardons remain valid.

President Duda has announced that he will begin new pardon proceedings for the two former PiS government ministers jailed this week.

His office had previously insisted that Duda would not pardon the pair because he believes he already did so in 2015 https://t.co/Gb2MbiOYVV

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 11, 2024

Last year, a chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that the pardons had been issued unlawfully. However, another top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, found that the Supreme Court had no right to issue such a ruling.

Last week, Duda announced, following a request from Kamiński and Wąsik’s wives, that he would begin new pardon proceedings. He asked the justice minister, Adam Bodnar, to order the pair to be released from prison while those proceedings are underway.

Bodnar says, however, that he first needs to assess the request made by Duda. He has also noted that, if the president wants, he could simply directly issue a pardon immediately, which would result in Kamiński and Wąsik being released from prison.

Adam Bodnar powiedział w #FaktypoFaktach w @tvn24, że „wcale nie jest przekonany”, czy prezydent rzeczywiście chce doprowadzić całą procedurę ułaskawienia Mariusza Kamińskiego i Macieja Wąsika do końca.https://t.co/db1r4UTrOv

— tvn24 (@tvn24) January 15, 2024

In response to Gądecki’s intervention yesterday, many commentators noted the same, arguing that, instead of intervening with Bodnar, the bishop should simply ask Duda to immediately issue a new pardon.

Some accused Gądecki of effectively endorsing the political narrative of PiS, which has traditionally enjoyed close relations with the church.

Meanwhile, Duda yesterday again renewed his own appeal to Bodnar to bring about the release of Kamiński and Wąsik from prison. The president revealed that he had received information from Kamiński’s wife that a court has issued an order requiring him to be force-fed due to his declining health amid the hunger strike.

Prezydent @AndrzejDuda w #Davos: Dziś otrzymałem informację od małżonki Mariusza Kamińskiego, że wobec ministra został wydany nakaz sądu, aby był przymusowo dokarmiany, ponieważ stan jego zdrowia zagraża życiu.

Apeluję do Ministra @Adbodnar, w którego rękach znajduje się… pic.twitter.com/cFvU6MNwA7

— Kancelaria Prezydenta (@prezydentpl) January 17, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: EpiskopatNews/Flickr (under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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