Polish legal body rejects prosecutor’s request to arrest judge | WWTI
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – A controversial disciplinary body within Poland’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a prosecutor’s request to arrest a judge who has become a symbol of resistance for those who believe the independence of the justice is threatened in the country.
The Disciplinary Chamber, created by the populist party that rules Poland, decided after two days of deliberation not to order the arrest of Judge Igor Tuleya.
Tuleya, a judge at the Warsaw District Court, was stripped of her immunity by the disciplinary chamber last year and faces criminal charges brought by state prosecutors. However, he repeatedly refused to appear before prosecutors, leading the chamber to call for his arrest and forcible conduct.
Adam Roch, the judge who read the decision, said the chamber, in rendering its decision, “considered issues related to human freedom.”
Prosecutors have the right to appeal the decision and it seems likely.
Tuleya told enthusiastic supporters waiting in front of the Supreme Court: “We won a small battle today, but the war to protect the rule of law continues. We will fight until the end.
For two days, police surrounded the Warsaw courthouse as a small group of protesters and lawyers joined Tuleya to wait outside for a decision.
The prosecutor charged Tuleya with a criminal breach of secrecy for allowing journalists to enter his courtroom for a verdict in 2017. The charges carry a maximum sentence of three years. Tuleya said allowing journalists in court was fully permitted under the penal code and had not revealed any secrets.
Critics of the government see the charges against Tuleya as a pretext and argue that they are intended to warn other judges to align with the interests of the Conservative government or be punished.
“The situation is terrifying. That’s why you can see so many lawyers in court. We are all at risk, ”said Michal Wawrykiewicz, a lawyer with Free Courts, a group that fights for the rule of law.
After the right-wing Law and Justice party came to power in 2015, it quickly took control of most aspects of the Polish justice system, successfully establishing political control over the Constitutional Court and other judicial bodies.
Almost six years later, however, he still struggles to control the lower courts, where independent judges often render rulings contrary to the government.
The ruling party claims to have sought to clean up a justice system it describes as inefficient and corrupt. Party leaders say Tuleya, with her open criticism of the judicial overhaul, acted as a political activist.
Tuleya denies this.
“If you look at my public statements, they all relate exclusively to the judiciary, the rule of law and the constitution,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Democracy activists argue that Poland has taken an undemocratic turn under law and justice and see the resistance of judges like Tuleya as one of the last bastions against erosion of citizens’ rights.
The Supreme Court of Poland and the European Union consider the disciplinary chamber which examined the Tuleya case to be an illegal body. The bloc’s executive board recently asked the EU’s highest court to investigate the matter.