Police have received warrants ordering them to detain two MPs who served as ministers in the former Law and Justice (PiS) government so that they can begin the two-year prison sentences they were given last month for abusing their power during a corruption investigation.
However, they maintain their innocence and also argue that they were pardoned in 2015 by President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally. Duda has continued to show them support, with his chancellery saying they would be “political prisoners” if they are jailed.
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
A Warsaw court yesterday rejected motions from the pair – Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik – not to initiate proceedings to enforce their prison sentences.
Kamiński served as interior minister and minister in charge of the security services in the PiS government, with Wąsik as his deputy.
“The execution documentation has been prepared, including the orders to bring the convicted M.K. and M.W. to penitentiary units,” said judge Piotr Maksymowicz.
This morning, Warsaw police confirmed that they had received documents from the court ordering the pair to be detained.
Mając na względzie liczne pytania dziennikarzy i zainteresowanie medialne potwierdzamy, że Policja otrzymała od sądu dokumentację w poniższej sprawie.
Dalsze informacje będą mogły zostać przekazane po zakończeniu policyjnych czynności. pic.twitter.com/GnzOxmfUzh
— Policja Warszawa (@Policja_KSP) January 9, 2024
However, at the time of writing, those warrants had not yet been executed. Niezależna, a conservative news website supportive of PiS, reported shortly after 10 a.m. local time that it had determined the police tried to detain Wąsik at his home this morning but he was not there when they arrived.
In a show of support, Duda yesterday invited Kamiński and Wąsik to a ceremony at the presidential palace that was due to begin at 11 a.m., but at the time of writing there is no confirmation as to whether they have taken up that offer.
The president continues to insist that the conviction issued against the pair last month is not valid because he pardoned them in 2015.
President Duda is „considering sending information to international institutions that there are political prisoners in Poland”, says his chief of staff, referring to two former PiS ministers who were last week given two year prison sentences https://t.co/kHikmJ7K1a
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) December 30, 2023
However, last year, a chamber of the Supreme Court found the president’s pardons to be invalid because they were issued while the pair were still appealing against their original conviction. That paved the way for them to receive a final conviction in December.
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.
Yesterday, Mateusz Morawiecki, the former PiS prime minister, described the decision to detain Kamiński and Wąsik as “lawlessness in its pure form”, adding that “this is how dictatorships are born”.
Polacy są z Wami! 🇵🇱 pic.twitter.com/xi7FHjmUrp
— Bogdan Rzońca (@Bogdan_Rzonca) January 9, 2024
But figures from Poland’s new ruling coalition, which replaced PiS in power last month, welcomed justice being served.
“The place of criminals is in prison,” wrote Robert Biedroń, one of the leaders of The Left (Left), a member of the ruling coalition. “Kaminski and Wąsik will finally experience law and justice. There can be no sacred cows. You break the law, you suffer the consequences!”
Interior minister Marcin Kierwiński told broadcaster Polsat on Monday evening that Kamiński and Wąsik “are convicted and both should answer for what they did”.
He said that the doubts being cast over their convictions are simply examples of the “gigantic legal mess that PiS has caused” through its “destruction of the Polish constitution and Polish law for the eight years” it was in power.
Regarding the rulings in support of Kamiński and Wąsik by the TK and a Supreme Court chamber, Kamiński argued that the former is “a body with unauthorized persons [and] certainly not a constitutional court” while the latter has been found by the EU Court of Justice to be unlawfully formed.
The Supreme Court chief justice – who was appointed under the former PiS government – has accused the speaker of parliament – who is part of the new ruling coalition – of “illegal actions” regarding two former PiS ministers recently given prison sentences https://t.co/3n5ctfjHON
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 8, 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: MSWiA (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)
Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.