WARSAW (AP): Poland’s Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a judge who was suspended for two years and became a symbol of the struggle for independent courts under the country’s populist government.
The reinstatement of Judge Igor Tuleya was welcomed by many judges and other advocates of judicial independence. Tuleya said he was not guilty of a crime which state prosecutors had accused him of.
Prosecutors have still not dropped their case against Tuleya. It was brought because he admitted journalists to his announcement of a ruling in 2017 that was a matter of keen interest to the government and the public.
However, it was not immediately clear if his reinstatement would be enough to end a standoff between the Warsaw government and the European Union, which has blocked billions of euros (dollars) of aid to Poland over what it views as the government’s erosion of judicial independence.
The decision is the latest development in a complex seven-year standoff between the government and Polish judges seeking to maintain their independence from political control.
Tuleya, who had his salary docked 25%, is one of the most prominent of several judges to be disciplined due to their rulings and their criticism of judicial changes under the government, which won elections in 2015.
The government, led by the conservative Law and Justice party, has been making changes to the entire judicial branch of government — remaking the courts and other judicial bodies. Political leaders have frequently said their aim is to discipline a “caste” of judges which they allege are sometimes corrupt and too engaged in politics.
The changes to the system have led to a situation in which certain legal bodies and judges tapped by the government are viewed as illegitimate by many other judges and lawyers, who argue that the changes were made in violation of Poland’s constitution.
In his first reaction, Tuleya said Tuesday that he felt his situation belonged in a Franz Kafka novel.
“I was suspended by something that is not a court and reinstated by something that is not a court. So I feel a bit like I have been in a dream for over two years,” he said, according to remarks published by the state news agency, PAP.
He said he planned to return to work at the Warsaw District Court on Wednesday but was prepared for anything.