Ex-Polish conservative ministers face jail as Tusk’s parliamentary majority ignores president’s pardon

Donald Tusk’s pro-EU government has been accused of circumventing the Polish president to lock up its political opponents

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: interia.pl
Mariusz Kaminski, a minister in the previous PiS government, is now in prison despite being pardoned by the country's current Polish president. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Two Polish MPs who served as ministers in the previous Law and Justice (PiS) government have lost their seats in parliament and face jail time after the new speaker accepted a court ruling.

Mariusz Kamiński, who served as interior minister in Poland’s former government, and one of his deputy ministers, Maciej Wąsik, were handed two-year prison sentences on Dec. 20 for their actions during an investigation into a corruption scandal in the years of 2005-2007. Both have also been banned from holding public office.

The ruling followed a long-running and controversial process that first saw the pair pardoned by President Andrzej Duda. That decision was then ruled invalid by the Polish Supreme Court, paving the way for the latest convictions.

That came despite the fact that Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that a presidential pardon cannot be disputed.

The new speaker of Parliament Szymon Hołownia has now ruled that the two individuals lost their seats and immunity, are also debarred from holding public office, and must leave parliament.

Duda has written to Hołownia to insist that his original pardons are still valid and that the two MPs should not be removed from parliament or jailed, but the speaker said he disagreed with the president.

Roman Giertych, an MP from Tusk’s ruling bloc, immediately petitioned for the two politicians to be arrested and brought to prison to serve their sentences.

Kamiński and Wąsik now face the likelihood of prison, which will inevitably lead to accusations that the newly installed government is ignoring the president’s decision and locking up its “political opponents.”

During the Thursday session in the Sejm, former ministers Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik were greeted with applause by the deputies of the PiS club. The new coalition MPs chanted at that time, “To prison!” At one point, Mariusz Kamiński made a hand gesture towards the politicians of the parliamentary majority — the famous Władysław Kozakiewicz’s arm gesture, which is a sign of defiance in Poland.

With such a gesture during the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz reciprocated to the hostile Russian audience after winning the gold medal. This gesture has become part of the cultural code in Poland and a symbol of resistance against Soviet rule during the Cold War.

PiS has already said the court sentences imposed on them were political in nature as well as being punitive, and the president is unlikely to back down from his stance that he has already pardoned the individuals involved. 

The issue in question dates back to the period from 2005 to 2007, when PiS was in power. At that time, it appointed Kamiński as head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA).

Kamiński and three of his subordinates were later charged with exceeding their powers in an investigation into a corruption scandal involving a land deal that had led to the resignation of then-Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper.

In 2015, the four CBA officials were found guilty by a court in Warsaw, with Kamiński sentenced to three years in prison and given a 10-year ban from holding public office. He and the others maintained their innocence and appealed against the convictions.

Before those appeals could be heard, President Duda, a PiS ally, decided to issue presidential pardons to all four in November 2015. He did so the day after Kamiński had been appointed security minister in what was then a new PiS-led government.

The Supreme Court in June this year ruled that the pardons did not override the need to complete the due process of law. That decision was subsequently successfully challenged in the Constitutional Tribunal. Following that, the cases were heard once more in the common courts, and the two-year prison sentences were again confirmed.

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