On Tuesday morning, police arrived at the doorstep of Mariusz Kaminski and Maciej Wasek to arrest the parliamentarians. But the officers refused. It turned out that the couple was at the palace of President Andrzej Duda, who had summoned them there earlier. On Tuesday afternoon, it appeared they had no intention of leaving. “We are not hiding,” Kaminsky told reporters gathered outside the door. “We are at the presidential palace.” Meanwhile, officers wait outside the door of the large neoclassical building in central Warsaw.
According to Poland's Radio Zeit channel, police are considering a scenario in which politicians are transported by helicopter to the presidential residence on the Baltic Sea coast. It's another development in Polish politics, one that rivals many political thrillers since Donald Tusk's new government came to power.
He was convicted of abuse of power
The couple were sentenced to two years in prison at the end of December. This issue goes back years, to the first government period of the Law and Justice Party, between 2005 and 2007. The politicians have been found guilty of abuse of power in a major corruption investigation. Kaminski was head of the Polish Anti-Corruption Bureau at the time, and Wasik worked under him. They were previously convicted in the case, but President Duda pardoned both politicians in 2015, shortly after PiS won the election.
In the following years they held important positions: Kaminsky was Minister in charge of the Secret Service, and later became Minister of the Interior. Wąsik was Minister of State. They are now represented in the Polish House of Commons. Duda's pardon in 2015 was controversial; According to critics, Duda kept his hand on the convicts. He also pardoned them before the appeal was heard, raising questions about the legality of a presidential pardon from a legal standpoint.
Last year, the Supreme Court decided to reopen the case, leading to a prison sentence being imposed at the end of December.
A confrontation between the old and new government
The conviction and possible arrest of the two men has become a new focal point in the weeks-long standoff between the new government and the previous government. Prime Minister Tusk and his government are in power and trying to restore the rule of law. They see the judge's conviction of the parliamentarians as a return to the work of the Polish judiciary, which has been hampered by politics in recent years.
But PiS has burrowed itself deep into the institutions. The courts, politicized by the Law and Justice Party and President Duda, who is affiliated with the party, are trying to protect the two, whether from the withdrawal of their mandate in the House of Commons or from the possibility of their arrest. Now that the arrest warrant has been submitted to the police after weeks of tug-of-war, the story appears to be heading towards a grand finale at the presidential palace.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tusk described the situation as “unbelievable.” Something like this has never happened before in Poland. “This is not in the textbooks,” Tusk said. He pointed out that hiding people wanted by the police is a criminal crime, and called on the president to stop this “harmful scene.” According to Tusk, the foundations of the Polish state are not at stake.
Search for cars
The Law and Justice Party has a completely different voice: the former ruling party believes that the prosecution of parliamentarians is politically motivated. “We cannot allow Poland to have political prisoners,” Kaminski said on Tuesday. Both say they remain members of the House of Commons – despite having their terms revoked – and plan to attend the next session.
That session was postponed for a week on Tuesday morning, according to House Speaker Simon Holonia, because the emotions surrounding the parliamentarians were so intense. Wasik said on the radio earlier this week that he intends to go to the hearing or “will have to be forcibly removed.” It seems that Holonia wants to avoid such a scene.
Since the Tusk government has tried to dismantle PiS's populist legacy, as with the controversial takeover of Poland's public broadcaster at the end of December, the party has been playing the victim. The stunning arrest of two parliamentarians at the presidential palace – where police are officially allowed to visit them – would also serve as a catalyst for PiS. On Tuesday evening, officers were limited to searching a number of cars leaving the palace for the time being.
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