PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (C) talks to journalists in front of the remand prison in Warsaw, Poland, 2024. EPA-EFE/Piotr Nowak POLAND OUT


Tensions erupt as Polish MPs arrested in police swoop on Presidential Palace


An extraordinary day in Polish politics ended with two MPs arrested by police in the Presidential Palace –  without President Andrzej Duda’s approval.

Outraged Conservative PiS party members and supporters gathered in front of the Palace and a Warsaw police station holding the detained MPs to express their fury following the events.

On the morning of January 9, the police received a court order to arrest PiS MPs, former interior minister Mariusz Kamiński and his deputy Maciej Wąsik, whose presidential pardons had been questioned by judges despite having been upheld by both the Constitutional Tribunal and Supreme courts.

Under the direction of interior minister Marcin Kierwiński, the police had intended to arrest the two MPs at their homes. That did not happen as both had already left for a function at the Palace where they stayed for several hours as guests of Duda.

That evening, the President left to meet Svetlana Tsihanovskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader. Minutes after his departure, the police entered the Palace and seized Kamiński and Wąsik, taking them to a police station in another part of the city.

According to Grażyna Ignaczak-Bandych, one of Duda’s senior aides, the police did not show any official documentation and simply arrested the two MPs.

On being informed of the events, Duda attempted to leave his meeting with Tsihanovskaya but the gate to the building he was at was blocked by a Warsaw city bus.

Ignaczak-Bandych said the President was contacting allies and international organisations regarding the affair and would state that the country’s laws and Constitution were being disregarded by the Government.

Earlier in the day, the Speaker of Parliament Szymon Hołownia opted to delay the latest planned sitting of Parliament by a week to try to quell unrest over the events as the PiS aimed to demonstrate outside the Parliament building on January 11.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk did not seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet; at a press conference, he threatened Duda with being criminally charged if he continued to try to “protect” the two MPs.

Tusk accused him of “colluding” with the PiS in “undermining the rule of law” and cited an article from the penal code that states any person who attempts to “pervert the course of justice” and is found guilty risks a prison term of three months to five years.

Duda, while President, can only be tried and removed from office by being put before the State Tribunal, with two-thirds of members of both Houses of Parliament upholding any such decision.

Tusk’s ruling coalition holds 314 of 560 seats in the both parliamentary houses, well short of the required majority to unseat a president.

Just before Kamiński and Wąsik were arrested, the PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński appeared on independent news channel TV Republika and said Poland was on the eve of “having political prisoners” and predicted that “this was only the beginning”.

Once news of the detention of the two MPs broke, PiS supporters gathered outside the Presidential Palace to protest at the Government’s actions.

Former Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “Poland has political prisoners again,” in reference to Communist times.

Leader of the PiS parliamentary caucus Mariusz Błaszczak backed his colleagues, saying: “In the Tusk-owned State, Civic Platform [party] politicians charged with corruption are free.

“PiS politicians, who have been fighting against corruption during their entire political careers, are being sent to prison.”

In a separate development, a Warsaw court refused to register the new board of Polish public TVP station appointed by the Government just before Christmas.

Culture minister Bartłomiej Sienikiewicz had apparently anticipated that may happen – just after Christmas he put TVP and other public media into “liquidation”.

PiS supporters claim Tusk is effectively orchestrating a coup d’etat in which he has taken over all judicial functions and the public media.

In addition, they claim, he is ignoring decisions taken by the top courts and Duda and expect that, since Tusk did not flinch from sending the police into the Presidential Palace, he would not hesitate to send law-enforcement officers to seize those leading the top courts, too.

Deputy Speaker Krzysztof Bosak, who is also one of the leaders of the PiS rivals on the Right, the Confederation party, slammed the Government’s actions. He said they were confrontational, disrespectful to Duda and meant that “it was now the police which decided which organs of State were legal”.

Tusk supporters claim the Government is merely upholding the law and the principle that all are equal before it. They accuse the PiS of having seized control of the courts and public media when in power and having used them against their political opponents.

The PiS argues that Kamiński and Wąsik are innocent and that the recent upholding of their convictions is invalid because Duda’s pardons remain in place.

It claims the pair have been victimised by Tusk-led authorities including the current Government and judges due to the PiS’ “effective” fight against corruption.