WARSAW (Reuters): Poland’s top court ruled on Tuesday that a case involving a minister convicted of abuse of power when fighting graft in a previous role should be reopened, a blow to government hopes that the proceedings could be laid to rest before elections.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October or November, with polls suggesting the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party may fall short of a majority amid a conflict over democratic standards in the EU member state.
Tuesday’s ruling appeared to fly in the face of a Constitutional Tribunal verdict handed down on Friday that said President Andrzej Duda was within his rights to pardon Mariusz Kaminski, the current interior minister, before an appeal had been concluded, potentially drawing a line under the matter.
“The Supreme Court is of the opinion that the judgment of the Constitutional Tribunal of June 2 this year… did not produce any legal effects,” Judge Piotr Mirek said.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to a district court to be re-examined.
PiS spokesman Rafal Bochenek condemned the decision.
“This is open subversion on the part of the Supreme Court and an anti-constitutional act that is intended to lead to complete legal chaos,” he told private broadcaster RMF FM.
In 2015, weeks after PiS came to power, Duda, a PiS ally, issued a pardon to Kaminski who had been found guilty of abuse of power while serving as head of the anti-corruption agency. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
Lawyers questioned whether Duda had the right to do so before the appeals process had concluded and opposition politicians branded the move political. A final conviction would have prevented Kaminski from holding government office.
On Friday the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the right of pardon was the “exclusive and absolute” power of the president.
Critics said Kaminski and his associates had pursued corruption with excessive zeal when in office, using methods they said sometimes circumvented laws and also hounded innocent people. Kaminski argued that corruption was a blight on Polish democracy that had to be tackled thoroughly.