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Polish police arrest ex-ministers at presidential palace

January 9, 2024

The ministers were convicted of abuse of power in former positions. Their arrest comes amid a dispute between President Andrzej Duda and the new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Protesters and police face-off outside the Grochow police station in Warsaw
Supporters of the PiS party gathered outside the police station where the opposition lawmakers were heldImage: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Polish police on Tuesday entered the country's presidential palace and arrested two politicians convicted of abuse of power.

Former Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and his former state secretary, Maciej Wasik, were in the palace of President Andrzej Duda, an ally of their conservative Law and Justice party (PiS)

Earlier, Prime Minister Donald Tusk accused the right-wing president of obstructing their imprisonment.

"Mr President, my heartfelt appeal for the good of the Polish state: you must put an end to this spectacle. It will lead us into a very dangerous situation," Tusk said in Warsaw.

People hold banners and shout slogans as they take part in a protest against a warrant for the former Minister of the Interior of Poland in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw
Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace at the behest of the PiS partyImage: Omar Marques/Anadolu/picture alliance

It is the latest incident in an escalating dispute between the new government, led by Tusk, and PiS, which governed Poland for eight years.

How has the PiS reacted?

Hundreds of PiS supporters gathered outside the presidential palace, and outside the police station where the two politicians were being held.

The crowd chanted "Free political prisoners" and "Shame!"

PiS spokesperson Rafał Bochenek described the arrested duo as "political prisoners" in a social media post late on Tuesday. In another post, he described their arrest as "an illegal kidnapping and a violation of all democratic rules."

PiS Ministers' pardons overturned

Ministers Kaminski and Wasik were convicted of abuse of power for actions taken in 2007, when they served in an earlier PiS-led government.

Duda pardoned them in 2015, though legal experts argued that such pardons are reserved for cases that have gone through the appeals process.

Last June, Poland's Supreme Court overturned their pardons. 

Both had to face trial again. At the end of December, the Warsaw District Court sentenced them to two years in prison.

Duda, who is closely aligned with PiS, argued their pardons remained valid.

New Interior Minister Marcin Kierwinski insisted "everyone is equal before the law."

Donald Tusk's pro-EU coalition set to take power in Poland

lo/rmt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)