Imprisoned Polish opposition politician on hunger strike taken to hospital

One of the two opposition politicians who have been on hunger strike since beginning to serve prison sentences two weeks ago was taken to hospital yesterday. An ally says he is in “serious but not life-threatening condition”.

On Monday evening, newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza first revealed that Mariusz Kamiński – who served as a minister in the Law and Justice (PiS) government from 2015 until last year – had been taken from jail to the emergency room in a nearby hospital.

News website Wirtualna Polska later reported that Kamiński had been taken to hospital for tests due to his lower blood sugar level. He was returned to prison the same evening.

🎥Nagranie Telewizji Republika, odjazd karetki spod aresztu w Radomiu

🔴 M. Kamiński trafił na Szpitalny Oddział Ratunkowy do radomskiego Szpitala przy ulicy Aleksandrowicza#włączprawdę #TVRepublika

— Telewizja Republika 🇵🇱 #włączprawdę (@RepublikaTV) January 22, 2024

While the prison service was unable to comment publicly, one of Kamiński’s former deputy ministers, Błażej Poboży, who is now an advisor to PiS-aligned President Andrzej Duda, confirmed to broadcaster TV Republika that Kamiński had been taken to hospital.

“[His] health condition is serious,” said Poboży. “We have information that it is not life-threatening, but the very fact that he was transported [to hospital] proves that the situation is truly dramatic.”

“I can’t imagine that in the dramatic situation we have today, prosecutor [general] Adam Bodnar will not free Mariusz Kamiński from further imprisonment,” he added.

On Tuesday morning, deputy justice minister Maria Ejchart confirmed to Polsat News that Kamiński had been taken to hospital for “tests that could not be carried out in prison”. She added that there had been “no deterioration in his health”.

Kamiński w szpitalu. Doradca prezydenta potwierdza

— Wirtualna Polska (@wirtualnapolska) January 22, 2024

On 11 January, two days after Kamiński was jailed along with fellow convicted PiS politician Maciej Wąsik, Duda announced that he was beginning proceedings to pardon the pair.

At the same time, he appealed to Bodnar – who serves as both justice minister and prosecutor general in the new government that replaced PiS in office last month – to release Kamiński and Wąsik on humanitarian grounds while the pardons are considered.

However, Bodnar has said that he first needs to assess the documents sent to him by Duda. He has also noted that the president could ensure that the pair are released immediately by directly issuing a pardon instead of undertaking the current proceedings.

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

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

But the matter is complicated by the fact that Duda believes he pardoned the pair already in 2015. Those pardons were rejected as invalid by a chamber of the Supreme Court last year.

However, the Constitutional Tribunal (TK) ruled that the Supreme Court was not allowed to question the presidential prerogative of pardon and another Supreme Court chamber effectively found the pardons to be valid. Both that chamber and the TK are staffed by PiS-appointed judges.

In an interview with newspaper Super Express on the weekend, Duda said that if Kamiński’s deteriorating health “can only be stopped by me simply pardoning them again, simply to save them, then I will do it”.

The head of the Catholic church in Poland has offered to „undertake humanitarian intervention” with the government regarding two opposition politicians who were jailed last week.

He also called on the pair to end their hunger strike

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 18, 2024

Many interpreted that as meaning that the president would not wait for Bodnar to respond to his request and simply issue another pardon, even if it meant effectively admitting that his previous one was invalid

However, that was downplayed by Duda’s chief of staff, Marcin Mastalerek, on Monday. “Nothing has changed,” he told broadcaster TVN. “The president calls on Adam Bodnar to send opinions and case files as soon as possible.”

Both Kamiński and Wąsik have been on hunger striker since they were taken to jail, with the pair claiming they are political prisoners. The government says they had to be jailed due to last month receiving binding convictions for abusing their power while heading Poland’s anti-corruption office.

For more on Kamiński’s imprisonment and his hunger strike in protest against being a „political prisoner”, see our report from last week

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 15, 2024


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Main image credit: MSWiA (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

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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