Ten artykuł czytasz w ramach bezpłatnego limitu

Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter "News from Poland: Democracy at Stake". It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights in Poland.

Krzysztof L., a 61-year-old prosecutor from Poznań, is now facing prosecution himself. The charges are twofold: exceeding authority and acting to the detriment of public interest, as well as insulting the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński

The indictment was prepared by a special division of the National Prosecutor's Office created to prosecute judges and prosecutors who break the law. The department reports directly to the head management of the politicized prosecutor’s office (which is itself controlled by the Minister of Justice/Attorney General Zbigniew Ziobro).

A satire poster with Jarosław Kaczyński in the prosecutor’s office

Krzysztof L.'s troubles with the National Prosecution began in January 2019 when an unknown person photographed a poster that was hanging in his office. It was an edited German Nazi-era propaganda poster.

The original poster depicts a member of the Nazi Party in a brown shirt holding a banner with a swastika. In the edited version of the poster, the author inserted the face of Jarosław Kaczyński. The swastika - originally also shown on the man's armband - was replaced with the official logo of the Law and Justice party. Below is a paraphrase of the infamous Nazi propaganda slogan: "Ein Volk, ein PiS, ein Katschor".

The altered poster was circulated on the internet as a meme. According to our information, the prosecutor put it up on a wall and placed it on an outdated wall calendar. Its size was not large – it was smaller than an A4 format, making it much more of a postcard than a regular poster.

Was the poster on public display?

What may be crucial to the case, however, is the fact that according to our sources the poster depicting Kaczyński was hanging in a part of the room where it wasn’t visible to whoever visited the prosecutor’s office.

This is an important detail. In legal terms, an "insult" is defined as something that happens in public or with the intention to directly reach the insulted person, in this case- Jarosław Kaczyński. Thus, the prosecution will have to prove that the satirical poster hanging out of sight for visitors was indeed a public insult, or that by hanging it up, the prosecutor intended to send a direct message to the leader of the Law and Justice party.

As a rule, insult crimes are prosecuted on behalf of private individuals, so it is Kaczyński himself who should bring the indictment to court. However, Minisiter Ziobro's special division used a legal backdoor that allows it to prosecute the perpetrator of insult ex officio if it is a matter of public interest. The National Prosecutor's Office found that to be the case here.

Mr. Ziobro's investigators also want to convince the court that Krzysztof L. overstepped his powers and harmed the public interest because hanging up the satirical poster of Kaczyński by a prosecutor could be seen as an act that undermines the public’s trust in the institution as such.

Local court refuses to hear the case

Although the indictment has already reached the court in the Old Town district in Poznań, the date of the first hearing has not been set yet. "Wyborcza" found out that the court refused to deal with the case of prosecutor Krzysztof L.

According to our information, the case file was sent to the Supreme Court with a motion to move the trial to another city. The law allows such a transfer when it is in "the best interest" of the justice system. Usually, transfers like happen when there is a risk that the public could suspect the local court of lacking objectivity.

Aleksander Brzozowski, a spokesman for the Poznań court, confirms our information and explains the reasoning behind the motion: - In a 2004 decision, the Supreme Court stated that if the defendant is a prosecutor appearing before a particular court, it is reasonable for the case to be heard by another court.

Here, the case is slightly more complicated because Krzysztof L. worked in another district of Poznań.

Police officers and prosecutors called as witnesses

- Justifying its motion, the court notes that several dozen police officers and prosecutors from Poznań testified in the case. Some of them may have links to the court that are not only of a professional but also of a private nature- judge Brzozowski explains. - In addition, two witnesses are prosecutors from the District Prosecutor's Office in Poznań. They were previously the defendant's superiors.

Judge Brzozowski points out that the court is focused on the public’s perception of the case - it wants to avoid a situation in which citizens will doubt the impartiality of the court because of these links.

If the Supreme Court agrees with these arguments, it will move the case of Krzysztof L. to another city. Meanwhile, the accused prosecutor returned to work - we recently met him at one of the hearings.

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

We decided to make our service available to everyone free of charge in order to provide access to high quality journalism for expats and English speakers interested in Polish affairs.

The access to information should be equal for all.

Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
DONATE
Czytaj ten tekst i setki innych dzięki prenumeracie

Wybierz prenumeratę, by czytać to, co Cię ciekawi

Wyborcza.pl to zawsze sprawdzone informacje, szczere wywiady, zaskakujące reportaże i porady ekspertów w sprawach, którymi żyjemy na co dzień. Do tego magazyny o książkach, historii i teksty z mediów europejskich. Zrezygnować możesz w każdej chwili.