Polish judges want lawmakers to probe hate campaign


Protesters with banners calling on Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro to quit over allegations that his deputy encouraged an online hate campaign against defiant judges in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. The deputy, Lukasz Piebiak, has resigned over the allegations but said they were libel that he will take to court. The banner reads “Ziobro Must Go”. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Some Polish judges on Wednesday urged lawmakers to investigate an online hate campaign against some of them that was apparently encouraged by a deputy justice minister who has resigned over the allegations.

The judges of the independent Iustitia association also demanded that Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro resign over the scandal revealed this week by the Onet news site. Ziobro is also the prosecutor general, which the judges say means he cannot be objective in the probe that Warsaw prosecutors have launched into the online hate campaign.

“We want the matter clarified to the core and we want all those responsible to bear the consequences,” the judges said.

Opposition politicians are also demanding Ziobro’s resignation, suggesting he must have been aware of the hate campaign.

Government spokesman Piotr Muller reacted by saying there are no plans for Ziobro — one of the government’s hard-liners — to be fired.

Onet reported that Deputy Justice Minister Lukasz Piebiak encouraged an online user, identified only as Emilia S., to discredit some judges who had been critical of the deep changes that Poland’s right-wing nationalist government has been making to the country’s judiciary. Piebiak, who was in charge of the changes, reportedly furnished Emilia S. with personal data on the targeted judges, in violation of Poland’s privacy laws.

Piebiak, a judge himself, resigned Tuesday but said he plans to sue the portal for libel.

Emilia S., who apparently was remunerated for her activity, apologized Wednesday to those she targeted and said she had believed she was acting in Poland’s best interests.

The revelations are highly embarrassing for the ruling party, Law and Justice, ahead of a parliamentary election on Oct. 13. It has pushed changes to Poland’s judiciary, even at the price of a clash with European Union leaders who say the changes undermine the country’s rule of law. The EU has launched disciplinary proceedings against Poland.

The government argues Poland’s justice system has not been reformed since the communist era, for almost 30 years, and needs the changes. Critics say, however, that the government is taking political control of the judiciary.

Rafal Chwedoruk, a political scientist with the University of Warsaw, said he did not think the scandal would affect the outcome of the election — Law and Justice is well ahead in opinion polls — but in the long term it would weaken the ruling team and Ziobro’s position.

Chwedoruk attributed the party’s popularity to its program of subsidies for families with children and the elderly, developing local security and transport infrastructure, keeping its main electoral promises and developing the pro-U.S. nation’s relations with Washington.

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