The Polish police arrested the former interior minister and deputy interior minister inside the presidential palace in Warsaw. It was a day of unusual political drama.
Mariusz Kaminski and Maciej Wasik were sent to prison for two years last month because they used their power in the wrong way when they were in charge of an anti-corruption office in 2007.
After the arrests, the new interior minister Marcin Kierwinski wrote on X: “Everyone is treated the same by the law. ”
The arrests show the problems between the Law and Justice party and the new pro-EU coalition.
The men who were chosen as PiS MPs in October did not accept the court’s decision last month because President Andrzej Duda, who is a PiS supporter, forgave them for the crime in 2015. Mr Duda said he doesn’t agree with the court’s decision because he still believes his pardon is valid.
The pair lost their positions in Parliament, but they and President Duda say they are still legally elected MPs because of the pardon.
On Monday evening, the court told the police to arrest the men. However, Duda invited both of them to the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Tuesday morning for a ceremony to swear in two of their former colleagues as presidential advisers.
They came out of the palace a few hours later to talk to reporters for a short time, but they stayed inside the palace grounds the whole time. Mr Kaminski said that if they are arrested, they will be called “political prisoners” and he thanked Mr Duda for his help.
“We have a big problem that needs to be taken care of right away. ” Kaminski said a very strict and oppressive government is being formed. Then they went back into the palace as the political events continued.
A little while later, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a press conference that the situation was “unbelievable”. He said we should listen to the court’s decision and suggested that President Duda is helping the men avoid punishment.
The prime minister and interior minister don’t have a set of rules to follow when there are prisoners in the Presidential Palace. This is clearly using a situation to benefit from the fact that no one will fight back against such an important person like the president,” he added.
After the police arrested some people, many PiS supporters protested outside the palace to show their support for the arrested men.
Last year, the highest court in Poland decided that Mr. Duda’s pardon in 2015 was not allowed because it was given while the men were still trying to prove they were innocent, before their conviction was officially final. Mr Duda disagrees and says the pardon still counts.
To make things more difficult, judges chosen by the PiS party have ruled in favor of Mr. Duda in the Constitutional Tribunal and a new Supreme Court chamber.
Mr Tusk said that Mr. Duda could end the disagreement by forgiving the men again, now that the decision is final. But that would make people doubt if the first pardon was legal or not.
Mr Tusk’s group started working as the government last month. They promised to reverse the changes made by PiS to the courts, news organizations, and government workers. Many international groups say these changes have hurt the legal system in Poland.
One of the first things it did was to change the state TV, radio, and news agency that PiS had turned into a propaganda tool for its government.
However, their ways were like PiS’s, they started by having a government minister remove media boards and put new people before making new laws.
The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said it was hard to change the public media because of new laws by PiS. They said the media had become like a tool for spreading one-sided information. They also said they were not sure about the changes made by the new government.
Former PiS prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the BBC that Mr. Tusk’s government talked a lot about democratic standards, but didn’t really follow through with them.
“We are seeing an unusual attack on the way laws are enforced. ” Tusk’s government wanted to control public television and media using force. This does not meet democratic standards. We haven’t seen a government being so harsh since communism. Morawiecki said it is very wrong for people who talk about democracy to do this.
Many people who support Tusk think it’s hypocritical for PiS to make these accusations, because PiS has a history of controlling government institutions when they’re in power.