The Presidential Palace in Warsaw (Photo: Szczecinolog)

UPDATED 24 JANUARY 2024 | Two fugitive members of parliament, both former ministers, of the conservative PiS party that were arrested by Polish police officers inside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on 10 January 2024, were released from prison late Tuesday night 23 January. President Andrzej Duda (PiS) supported by a PiS installed and controlled special court tried to give the MPs of his own party a presidential pardon, which worked after three attempts this month.

Featured photo: The Presidential Palace in Warsaw (Photo by Szczecinolog (Creative Commons))

The Polish president had let the fugitive MPs in in the beginning of January, despite knowing they had been sentenced to two years in jail for corruption. When the president left for a meeting the police entered the palace and took the two MPs out in handcuffs, Polish media report. But the president continued his campaign to free his party mates, using the men’s wives in the campaign. In public and social media the president went head-to-head with the new Polish Prime Minister Tusk of the former main opposition party. The Tusk government did not want to support the presidential pardons, supported by another court that was not under the control of or installed by the former ruling PiS party.

(Text below same as on initial publication on 11 January 2024)

MPs Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik have been convicted in the so-called “land scandal”. Polish businessmen were able to change the legal status of any plot of land in Poland, by either bribing or in other way using their contacts within the Ministry of Agriculture.

Central Anti-Corruption Bureau

The case dates back to the early 2000s, when both PiS had appointed Mr. Kamiński as the head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA). In this role he has been convicted – in 2009 – to exceeding his powers, which led to the resignation of then Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper and the fall of the PiS-led government in 2007. Mr. Wąsik was also convicted, as Deputy Head of the CBA.

After PiS came back to power in 2015, Mr. Kaminski became Poland’s Interior Minister during the latter part of the conservative government, between 2019 and 2023. Mr. Wąsik was State Secretary of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. The PiS reign ended when the opposition block won the parliamentary elections in autumn last year.

President’s pardon overruled

Despite the two having been convincted, Polish president Andrzej Duda tried to overturn the court ruling of his PiS party colleagues, by granting them a pardon. The president’s attempt was subsequently ruled invalid by the Polish Supreme Court.

Courts fight

The last couple of days events unfolded like a bad-taste TV show. The PiS installed Constitutional Court of Extraordinary Control ruled that the Supreme Court overruling of the president was illegal, but the Labor Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that the PiS invented Constitutional Court of Extraordinary Control is not a court in the meaning of the European Law. And therefore its ruling is invalid.

Harbouring convicted criminals

When a Warsaw court then issued the arrest warrants for Kamiński and Wąsik, police officers went to their homes on Monday, to not find them there. On Monday afternoon, President Duda posted a photo of himself in the presidential palace with both MPs at his side, officially having invited them to attend a ceremony. This basically means, the President of Poland was harbouring convicted criminals and aiding in their escape from justice. Kamiński and Wąsik even gave a press conference on the palace’s grounds.

Entering the Warsaw palace

Yesterday, with the consent of the president’s chief of staff as not to embarrass the institution of the presidency, awaiting police officers entered the palace in Warsaw to arrest both convicts and brought them to the Warsaw-Grochów prison. Reportedly they already had their suitcases with clothes with them, with one of their wives even bringing it to the palace a day earlier, according to local Polish media. | © 2024 Marcel Burger, Original publication 11 January 2024, updated first two paragraphs