Polish president pardons nationalist jailed over violent incident at LGBT march

President Andrzej Duda has pardoned a nationalist, Marika Matuszak (pictured above), who was jailed for being part of a group that violently attempted to steal a rainbow-coloured bag from a woman participating in an LGBT march.

The president’s decision has been welcomed by figures associated with former justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who earlier this year ordered that Matuszak be released from prison while her request for a pardon was heard. He argued that she received an unduly harsh sentence.

On Tuesday, Duda’s chancellery announced that he had decided to pardon both Matuszak and Michał Ostrzycki, who was also convicted for his role in the same incident.

“The president took into account primarily justice and humanitarian considerations – the incidental nature of the act, the young age at the time of committing it, expression of remorse, serving part of the prison sentence, fulfilment of financial obligations imposed by the judgement,” reads the justification for the pardon.

The justice minister has ordered that a nationalist convicted for trying to steal a rainbow bag during a protest against an LGBT march be released from prison while a presidential pardon is considered.

He called her three-year jail sentence a „scandal” https://t.co/Bw1LvV25pF

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 15, 2023

Matuszak, who is now aged 24, and Ostrzycki along with two other perpetrators who were never identified were involved in a contronation with a young woman during the annual LGBT equality march in the city of Poznań in 2020.

According to court files quoted by the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, the group tried to snatch the victim’s bag “using violence”. As a result of the scuffle, the victim suffered injuries.

The court found that the actions of the group were of a hooligan nature, meaning the normal minimum sentence of two years for attempted robbery was increased to three years. Matuszak did not appeal against her sentence.

Gazeta Wyborcza reported that both Ostrzycki and Matuszak were part of a radical-right group called the National Purification Front (Front Oczyszczenia Narodowego) that aims to cleanse Poland of “all blemishes, dirt and enemies of the Polish nation”.

Documents obtained by a newspaper have cast doubt on the case of a nationalist released from prison by the justice minister.

They indicate she and three men – one of whom is reportedly a neo-fascist – used violence against a participant in an LGBT march https://t.co/36iGMGU5vf

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 16, 2023

In its justification for convicting the pair, the court wrote that their “behaviour cannot be seen as occurring due to their immaturity and naivety”. Matuszak and Ostrzycki “became part of these circles and preached hateful views, of which they are fully aware”

“Such a social attitude is unacceptable in a democratic state of law,” wrote the court. “While everyone has the right to preach views of their own choosing, there is no condoning of attacks and hatred towards other groups in society.”

Matuszak spent over a year in prison before her case was taken up by Ordo Iuris, a prominent ultraconservative legal group, which called her actions  “a gesture of opposition to the promotion of extreme left-wing ideologies”.

Ordo Iuris argued that the punishment she received was grossly disproportionate to the crime. It noted that a group of LGBT activists who earlier this year were found guilty of violently attacking a van broadcasting homophobic messages were given only community service.

🔴 Prezydent Andrzej Duda ułaskawił Marikę – dziewczynę, która została skazana na trzy lata więzienia za próbę wyrwania torebki w barwach logotypu ruchu LGBT
🔴 Marika spędziła w zakładzie karnym ponad rok. Została zwolniona przez Prokuratora Generalnego do czasu rozpatrzenia…

— Instytut Ordo Iuris (@OrdoIuris) December 12, 2023

They filed a petition, signed online by nearly 30,000 people, asking President Duda to pardon the woman. The court that initially sentenced Matuszak gave a positive opinion on the request for a pardon.

Matuszak herself said that she “bitterly regrets the unacceptable act that I committed” but argued that prosecutors’ decision to classify it as robbery was “unfair”.

The president’s decision to approve the request was welcomed by politicians from Sovereign Poland (Suwerenna Polska), the party lead by Ziobro and which ruled Poland as a junior partner to the Law and Justice (PiS) party from 2015 until this week.

“Thanks to the successful intervention of attorney general Ziobro, the 24-year-old sentenced to three years in prison, like a criminal (!), for snatching a rainbow bag, has been released from custody! The truth will set you free,” wrote Maria Kurowska, a Sovereign Poland MP.

Prezydent @AndrzejDuda zastosował prawo łaski wobec Mariki! Dzięki skutecznej interwencji Prokuratora Generalnego @ZiobroPL, 24-latka skazana na 3 lata więzienia, jak przestępca (!), za wyrwanie tęczowej torby, została zwolniona z aresztu! Prawda Was wyzwoli! 👏👏👏
📸 PAP pic.twitter.com/OxGfgQoWhx

— Maria Kurowska (@MariaKurowskaPL) December 12, 2023

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: Grzegorz Celejewski / Agencja Gazeta

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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