Prominent Polish judge reinstated in standoff with EU

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a judge who had been suspended for two years and has become a symbol of the fight for independent courts under the country’s populist government.

The Supreme Court declared Judge Igor Tuleya not guilty of a crime that prosecutors had charged him with, and his reinstatement was welcomed by many fellow judges and other advocates of judicial independence.

Prosecutors still haven’t dropped their case against Tuleya. He was brought in because he allowed reporters to witness his announcement of a 2017 decision that was of great interest to the government and the public.

It was not immediately clear whether 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 pandemic recovery funding to Poland over what she sees as the erosion of the judicial independence of government. .

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 also saw his salary pegged at 25%, is one of many judges to have been disciplined over their rulings and criticism of judicial changes under the government, which won elections in 2015.

The government, led by the conservative Law and Justice party, made changes to the entire judicial branch of government, remaking the courts and other judicial bodies. Political leaders often said their goal was to discipline a “caste” of judges, alleging the judges were corrupt and too politically engaged.

The changes to the system have led to a situation in which some judicial bodies and judges requested by the government are considered illegitimate by many other judges and lawyers, who argue that the changes were made in violation of the Polish constitution.

In his first reaction, Tuleya said on 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 kind of feel 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 District Court in Warsaw on Wednesday but was ready for anything.

The Supreme Court’s action was seen as a blow to Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who took a hardline stance against the EU. Some other government officials want to compromise on the legal front to end the standoff and receive the stimulus funds.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the court’s decision to reinstate Tuleya demonstrated his independence, which he described as the most important thing.

Vanessa Gera, The Associated Press


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