The European Parliament stripped four Polish MEPs of their immunity, allowing them to face criminal charges for retweeting their party’s 2018 local elections post.
The MEPs, from Poland’s conservative PiS, each shared their party’s post criticising EU migration policies. They now face criminal charges of incitement to racial hatred, carrying a maximum penalty of three years in prison.
The parliament took the decision on 9 November despite advice from its own Legal Affairs Committee the application against the four was politically motivated.
The advice came from MEP Gilles Lebreton, the committee’s rapporteur, who is responsible for giving advice on such applications.
Left-wing Polish activist Rafal Gawel accused the four of “committing racist crimes in Poland”.
Warsaw district court judge Edyta Snastin-Jurkun then submitted a request to the European Parliament to waive the four MEPs’ immunities, saying the case should come to trial.
The prosecutor’s office previously twice dismissed Gawel’s original claim as unfounded.
Gawel’s Centre for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior (OMZRiK) then applied directly to the district court in November 2021.
Gawel also has personal experience of the courts. He was convicted of embezzlement in Poland in 2019, and obtained asylum afterwards in Norway, claiming he was the victim of a politicised justice system.
The district court’s indictment names twelve PiS politicians, including the four current MEPs. It says they violated article 256 of Poland’s criminal code, which punishes inciting hatred on the basis of national, ethnic, racial or religious differences with up to three years in prison.
The four MEPs, Beata Kempa, Beata Mazurek, Patryk Jaki, and Tomasz Poreba, are each prominent members of Poland’s PiS.
Jaki is a former deputy justice minister, Kempa served as the prime minister’s chief of staff and a minister without portfolio, Mazurek was the PiS’s spokeswoman, and Poręba served as the party’s election campaign manager in 2019 and 2023.
If they are found guilty, in addition to a possible prison sentence they could face being barred from standing in future elections.
The campaign video in question alleged that an influx of illegal immigrants to Europe could cause an increase in sexual assaults and violent attacks.
A government formed by Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition, then the largest opposition grouping, would cause an influx of migrants and “enclaves of Muslim refugees”, making residents “afraid to go out on the streets after dark”, it said.
“For the first time in the history of the European Parliament, MEPs lost their immunity for liking something on Facebook,” says Kempa.
Jaki says the European Parliament is trying to create a “communist European state” where anyone can be “jailed for clicking on the internet”