Polish police arrest 2 convicted politicians with former government who took refuge with president


WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish police on Tuesday arrested two politicians convicted of abuse of power who had taken refuge for hours in the palace of President Andrzej Duda, in a dramatic escalation of a standoff between the new and previous governments.

Duda had welcomed the members of the former ruling party into the presidential palace as police went to their homes to arrest them. Polish media reported the men were arrested inside the palace. Warsaw police gave no details, saying only that the arrest was “in accordance with the court order.”

The development is the latest in the escalating dispute between the new government, led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and the conservative Law and Justice party that governed Poland for eight years until last month following its defeat in a general election in October.

Duda is closely aligned with Law and Justice and is making it clear that he will oppose Tusk’s agenda. Duda’s second and final term runs until mid-2025.

Tusk accused the president of going along with actions by Law and Justice to create chaos and instability after its electoral defeat, saying that Duda “must stop this spectacle, which is leading to a very dangerous situation.”

The prime minister claimed that the president was obstructing justice by giving the wanted men refuge. At a news conference, he read out a section of the penal code that he alleged Duda had violated, which carries a prison term from three months to five years.

“I just want the president to be aware of what his political friends have tricked him into. They are the ones setting a trap for him, not me,” Tusk said.

The dispute centers on two senior members of Law and Justice, former Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and his former deputy Maciej Wasik, who came out of the palace briefly to speak to journalists.

“We are not hiding,” Kaminski said. “We are currently with the president of the Republic of Poland until evil loses.”

Kaminski and Wasik were convicted of abuse of power for actions taken in 2007, when they served in an earlier Law and Justice-led government, and sentenced in December to two years in prison. They insist that they are innocent.

A court on Monday issued orders for police to arrest them and deliver them to prison.

After Law and Justice won power in 2015, Duda issued a pardon to Kaminski and Wasik after they were convicted of abuse of power but before their appeals had gone to a higher court, allowing them to take high government positions.

Many legal experts argued that presidential pardons are to be reserved for cases that have gone through all appeals.

In June, Poland’s Supreme Court overturned the pardons and ordered a retrial.

On Tuesday, Duda invited Kaminski and Wasik to his palace for a ceremony where he appointed two officials who had worked for them as his new advisers. His office posted a photo of him posing with all four.

After the ceremony, Kaminski and Wasik went outside and told reporters that police had searched their homes while they were away. They then went back inside the presidential palace, where they remained for several hours.

Parliamentary Speaker Szymon Holownia postponed a planned session of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, which had been scheduled to start on Wednesday, until next week.

Kaminski and Wasik, who were reelected as lawmakers in October, said they wanted to take part in the session, even though Holownia and others insist that, under the law, their guilty sentences strip them of their parliamentary mandates.

Holownia said the situation had created a “deep constitutional crisis … that does not guarantee that the Sejm’s deliberations this week would be peaceful.”

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