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WARSAW, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Poland is experiencing what many are now calling a coup less than one month after the new government took control on Dec. 13, 2023.
At the bidding of the new prime minister, Donald Tusk, police on Tuesday raided the presidential palace in Warsaw, arresting two top anti-corruption leaders. They are Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, members of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), who were charged in 2015 with abuse of power in a highly partisan trial but pardoned by Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Polish leaders were quick to respond. Mateusz Morawiecki, the former prime minister who was speaking at a "Man of Freedom" award ceremony at the time of the arrests, turned his remarks to the latest crisis.
Such a vicious attack on the freedom of people who have fought against corruption for years is a clear signal — the old is coming back. ... This is a signal for all those who reigned in the [post-communist] Third Republic: Get out of your pits, now it is your time to come. Those who fought against corruption are to go to jail. There is no better news for a criminal than a policeman locked up in prison. There is no consent of the Law and Justice Party and the circles close to freedom; there is no consent to such unlawful actions on the part of the Tusk government. … Today each and every one of us must become a man of freedom.
He added, "Today we are witnessing an increasingly Orwellian world that we thought belonged to the past."
Numerous sources reported that Duda was not at the palace at the time of the arrest. According to Reuters, he was at Belweder, another official residence, meeting with exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. He attempted to come to the site of the arrests, but a city bus was blocking his exit.
Reportedly, Tusk has threatened Duda with prison for allowing the two PiS politicians to be in the presidential palace.
Duda said on Wednesday that he will not rest until the two politicians are freed from prison, adding, "I won't be scared. I will act legally, in accordance with the constitution and the law — as before."
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the police station Tuesday where the two men were being held. They chanted "Free political prisoners" and "Shame!"
Calls to protest the new government's overreach and the most recent incursion are circulating on social media.
In a post on X, PiS spokesperson Rafał Bochenek called the police actions "an illegal kidnapping and a violation of all democratic rules." He added,
The constitution does not matter, the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court do not matter, they do not respect the President's law of pardon. This is a coup! Tusk's statements indicate that they will not stop. It is we, as a democratic society, who must resist this lawlessness.
Bochenek added, "Let's not allow Tusk and political acolytes to take further illegal actions aimed at destroying the foundations of our democracy ... let's be together in front of the Sejm [the Polish Parliament]."
The PiS Party posted:
Tusk's government is destroying the rule of law! This is how the ruling coalition began their rule by trying to deprive the democratically elected MPs of their mandate at all costs.
Despite a Presidential pardon, the ruling coalition is acting against the Supreme Court and the Constitution.
Stand up for MPs fighting corruption. Come to the Protest for Free Poles. Join us on 11 January at 4 p.m. in front of the Polish parliament, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland.
Many prominent Poles are speaking on behalf of the incarcerated men. Human rights activist and politician Anna Fotyga, yesterday posted her estimation of Mariusz Kamiński, saying he is
[O]ne of the most noble, honest, and courageous people I have the privilege to know. An anticommunist rebel, freedom fighter and anti-corruption leader, in the last 8 years [he] did a tremendous job building Poland's resilience against Putin's and Lukashenka's [Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko, communist leader of Belarus] hybrid warfare.
Donald Tusk's decision to imprison him for his fight against corruption 17 years ago, is a symbolic step in the re-establishment of a post-communist [sic] system in Poland. A scandalous decision, violating the presidential pardon granted in 2015 and rulings and decisions of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Tribunal, as well as unlawful revoking his MP's mandate and depriving him of parliamentary immunity, is alarming to all of us.
I began my adult life in the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. As a politician after the fall of communism, I have dedicated many of my efforts to support human rights worldwide, visiting jailed leaders and politicians in person. I had never imagined that in an independent Poland I would be visiting political prisoners once again.
Kamiński announced on Wednesday from jail through a spokesperson that he is on a hunger strike, saying,
I treat my conviction for fighting corruption and taking illegal actions to deprive me of my parliamentary mandate as an act of political revenge. Therefore, as a political prisoner, I have been starting a hunger protest from the first day of my imprisonment. I demand the immediate release from prison of all members of the former management of the Central Anticorruption Bureau, covered by the act of clemency issued in 2015 by the President of the Republic of Poland.
The arrests are just the latest turmoil affecting Poland.
All this follows Tusk's takeover of Polish media, covered by Church Militant in a Jan. 4 report. The new government, led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, attempted to wrest control of TVP (Poland's public television service), Polish Radio and the Polish Press Agency (PAP) beginning on Dec. 19. Throughout the chaos, Tusk, founder of the left-wing Civic Platform Party, is claiming he is "restoring media to the Polish people," after PiS' eight-year tenure.
Reports indicate that during the media blackouts on Dec. 20, Tusk made a migration pact with the European Union to relocate migrants into Poland. Morawiecki condemned the pact, adding, "I don't want [Poland] to be destroyed by the Muslim migrants coming from the Middle East or from Africa."
Respected Polish politician and historian Antoni Macierewicz maintained that Tusk's "representatives agreed to ... flood Poland with illegal migration ... from Germany."
"Approximately 90% of over a million immigrants living in Germany do not want to work," he added. "That is why our western neighbor intends to get rid of these people by transferring them, among others, to Poland."
A Church Militant contact in Poland said his nation's current situation is beginning to resemble a new Polish partition in which "to the west, German leaders are geared to send their surplus of illegal immigrants into Poland while, in the east, Russia's war with Ukraine rages at her border."
In her post on X, Fotyga issued a warning to the wider world that what is happening in Poland will not just stay in Poland.
This situation should not be only a Polish concern. Yes, there will be plenty of reassuring messages and words of deception from Tusk's side. But I warn that weakening Poland by reviving a troubled past by the Berlin-backed government in a time of Russia's openly brutal policy of imperialism, sooner or later will bring more misery to the entire region.
So far, the Polish clergy have not issued any official comments on the escalation of conflict in Poland. But on the solemnity of the Epiphany, Kraków's Abp. Marek Jędraszewski gave Poles a reminder to carry with them through the struggle.
"Poland belongs to God, who constantly reveals Himself to us in his love," he said. "Poland is the property of God."