WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s president said Tuesday he was once again pardoning two politicians who were arrested earlier this month amid a bitter standoff between the new centrist government and the previous conservative administration.
President Andrzej Duda made the announcement shortly after the new justice minister refused Duda's motion for a pardon procedure to be applied to two senior opposition members who served in the previous right-wing government until December. Duda is closely aligned with the Law and Justice party that ruled then.
Duda made an appeal to Justice Minister Adam Bodnar, who is also the prosecutor general, to release the two from prison immediately. Both were released a few hours later and were met outside by their wives and cheering gatherings.
Duda said he made his decision out of concern for the health of the two imprisoned politicians but also in response to the sentiment of a part of Polish society which supports Law and Justice.
Duda already pardoned the two in 2015 and had insisted he could not do so again. But on Tuesday he said he was reacting to the two inmates' situation and to the government's refusal to release them.
Several legal experts have argued the 2015 pardon was ineffective because it was handed before the final appeal in their case was heard and the court procedure completed.
Senior Law and Justice party members, former Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and his former deputy, Maciej Wąsik, were arrested on Jan. 9 and were imprisoned separately. Both have gone on a hunger strike and Kaminski was reported to have been examined at a hospital.
Soon after their arrest, Duda sent a motion to Bodnar, asking the two be pardoned and released. On Tuesday the minister rejected the request, but stressed his decision was not binding for Duda, suggesting that Duda was free to declare the two “pardoned.”
Kamiński and Wąsik were convicted of abuse of power and forging documents for actions taken in 2007, when they served in an earlier Law and Justice-led government. Critics point to Duda's pardon in 2015 as an example of his disregard for Poland’s law and acting in the interest of Law and Justice.
In June, Poland’s Supreme Court overturned the pardons and ordered a retrial. Kamiński and Wąsik were convicted again and sentenced in December to two years in prison. Police arrested them while they were at Duda’s presidential palace, where they were apparently hoping for protection.
Follow AP's Europe coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/europe