One of the former government ministers jailed yesterday for abuse of power has announced a hunger strike, declaring himself to be a “political prisoner”.
Mariusz Kamiński – who served as interior minister and minister in charge of the security services in the Law and Justice (PiS) government that lost power last month – was detained along with his former deputy minister Maciej Wąsik in the presidential palace yesterday evening following a day of drama.
A dramatic standoff came to an end this evening after police entered the presidential palace and detained two former ministers in the PiS government.
They had holed up there for hours following a court order to begin prison sentences for abuse of power https://t.co/c1RllzVOr9
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 9, 2024
The pair were in December handed two-year prison sentences but remained at liberty until this week, when a court ordered them to be taken to jail. After being detained yesterday evening, they were transported to a remand centre in Warsaw.
This morning, associates of Kamiński and Wąsik from the national-conservative PiS party held a press conference in front of the offices of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, at which they read a statement by Kamiński announcing his hunger strike.
“I treat my conviction…as an act of political revenge,” wrote the former minister. “Therefore, as a political prisoner, I am starting a hunger protest from the first day of my imprisonment.”
He demanded the release of himself, Wąsik and two other former figures from the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) who were also convicted in the same case.
💬 Doradca Prezydenta RP @pobozy: Pan Minister Mariusz Kamiński sformułował oświadczenie do Ministra Sprawiedliwości, Prokuratora Generalnego Adama Bodnara, które brzmi: „Oświadczam, że skazanie mnie za walkę z korupcją oraz podjęcie bezprawnych działań dotyczących pozbawienia… pic.twitter.com/n9Y8nxcHfW
— Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (@pisorgpl) January 10, 2024
The quartet were found to have acted unlawfully during an investigation into a corruption scandal at a time when Kamiński led the CBA under a previous PiS government that was in power from 2005 to 2007. Their actions included ordering illegal surveillance and the production of fake documents.
They were initially convicted in 2015 but, while still appealing that conviction, they were issued with pardons by President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally. He did so one day after Kamiński had been appointed as a minister in a new PiS-led government that remained in power until last month.
However, last year a chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that those pardons were invalid because they were issued before a final, binding conviction had been issued. That opened the way for Kamiński and Wąsik’s appeals to be heard in December, when the pair were given binding prison sentences.
Two members of the former PiS government have been given prison sentences and banned from holding public office https://t.co/MwVYS9t1Na
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 20, 2023
But another top court, the Constitutional Tribunal (TK), ruled that the Supreme Court has no right to question presidential pardons. Last week, a separate chamber of the Supreme Court effectively recognised the pardons as valid. Both that chamber and the TK are staffed by PiS-appointed judges.
PiS and Duda therefore argue that the pardons remain in force and that therefore December’s convictions against them should not be enforced. They claim the pair are being victimised by Tusk and judges friendly towards him because of Kamiński and Wąsik’s effectiveness in the fight against corruption.
Figures from Tusk’s ruling coalition, however, say that Kamiński and Wąsik’s actions are typical of how figures linked to PiS have violated the law and that the campaign in support of them now is simply an effort to avoid being held to account for their crimes.
“Two politicians legally convicted believe that they are above the law,” said Tusk yesterday while Kamiński and Wąsik were still holed up in the presidential palace. He warned Duda that, by helping the pair, he risked committing the crime of obstruction of justice.
Wszyscy są równi wobec prawa. pic.twitter.com/LCiNwsgq3b
— PlatformaObywatelska (@Platforma_org) January 9, 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 Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.