Brian Kelly

Abuse of power case against Polish minister ordered re-opened

A view of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Poland.

Poland’s top court ruled this week that a case involving a minister convicted of abuse of power in a previous role should now be reopened. The decision is a setback for government hopes that the matter could be resolved and put aside before this autumn’s parliamentary elections. The latest polls suggest that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party could fail to attain a majority given its nationalist agenda and controversies that have put it at odds with EU membership norms and democratic standards.

Tuesday’s ruling seemed to undermine a verdict by the Constitutional Tribunal just last week. The latter ruling said President Andrzej Duda had been within his rights to pardon current Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski, despite the appeal process in the abuse of power case not having been concluded. Some had viewed that intervention as a bid to wrap the controversy up and move ahead.

Just weeks after PiS came to power in 2015, Duda, an ally of the party, pardoned Kaminski after he had been found guilty of abuse of power while serving as head of Poland’s anti-corruption agency. Kaminski had been sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Lawyers questioned whether Duda had the right to do so before the appeals process had been concluded while opposition politicians denounced the move as political. Had there been a full conviction, Kaminski would have been ineligible to hold government office. Last Friday, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled the right of pardon was within the “exclusive and absolute” power of the president.

Critics claimed that when in office Kaminski and his associates had pursued corruption using methods that sometimes circumvented the law and also that they had hounded innocent people. Kaminski maintained that corruption had to be tackled vigorously since it was a blight on Polish democracy.

The Supreme Court, according to Judge Piotr Mirek, has now deemed the Constitutional Tribunal verdict to have failed to “produce any legal effects”, and so referred the case back to district court level to be examined anew.

PiS spokesman Rafal Bochenek decried the decision, telling broadcaster RMF FM that it amounted to “open subversion on the part of the Supreme Court”. It was, he said, “an anti-constitutional act …intended to lead to complete legal chaos”.

Explore more