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Polish politician starts hunger strike after arrest

A Polish politician who was detained at Poland’s presidential palace and sent to prison is starting a hunger strike, he has said.

Last night, police entered the palace to detain two of their former bosses, executing a court order to take ex-interior minister Mariusz Kaminski and his deputy Maciej Wasik to prison and escalating a row between the head of state and the new government.

“I declare that I treat my conviction… as an act ofpolitical revenge,” Mr Kaminski said in a statement this morning, read by his former deputy Blazej Pobozy at a press conference in front of the prime minister’s office.

“As a political prisoner, I started a hunger strike from the first day of my imprisonment,” he said.

Deputy Justice Minister Maria Ejchart said the two politicians are not political prisoners and any prisoner has the right to refuse to eat and drink if they so choose.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had earlier accused President Andrzej Duda of obstructing justice after the two politicians appeared at the palace, prompting police to search for them in cars leaving the building.

The two politicians appeared at Poland’s presidential palace

The accusations over the two politicians were the latest salvo in a row that is likely to be one of many during a period of cohabitation in which the government and president are from different political camps.

After winning power in an October election, Mr Tusk, a former top European Union official, has vowed to undo policies by his predecessors, the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS), who had faced accusations of subverting democracy during their eight-year rule.

New Interior Minister Marcin Kierwinski said “everyone is equal before the law”.

Grazyna Ignaczak-Bandych, the head of the president’s chancellery, told private broadcaster TV Republika that police entered the palace while Mr Duda was at his other official residence in Warsaw, Belweder, meeting exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

“We believe that they entered illegally, the chancelleryemployees did not resist, the police were rude, they did notwant to talk to me and they did not provide me with any documentthat would authorise their actions,” she said.

Scuffles between police and protesters erupted after supporters of the policitians tried to break into a police station

“When (Duda) was informed, he wanted to come immediately, but the exit from the Belweder Palace was blocked by a city bus.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the presidentialpalace at the behest of the PiS party, of which Mr Kaminski and Mr Wasik are members, and in front of a police station where the two were being held.

The crowd chanted “Free political prisoners” and “Shame!”

In a post on X, PiS spokesperson Rafał Bochenek called the police’s actions earlier in the day “an illegal kidnapping and aviolation of all democratic rules”.

In 2015, weeks following PiS’ assumption of power, Mr Duda, a PiS ally, issued a pardon to Mr Kaminski after he was convicted of abuse of power in a previous role as head of Poland’s Central Anti-Corruption Bureau.

The pardon allowed him to become interior minister. Mr Kaminski had been accused of allowing agents under his command to use entrapment in an investigation. He denied wrongdoing.

Lawyers questioned whether Mr Duda could pardon Mr Kaminski before an appeals court had issued a final ruling.

Andrzej Duda, left, with Donald Tusk at the sworn in cermony for Mr Tusk’s government last month (file photo)

The Supreme Court said last year the case should be reopened and Mr Kaminski and Mr Wasik, his deputy in the interior ministry, were sentenced last month to two years in prison for abuse of power.

Yesterday, the president’s office posted a picture of Mr Kaminski and Mr Wasik with Mr Duda at an official event at the palace.

“A sombre dictatorship is being formed. We cannot allow for Poland to hold political prisoners,” Mr Kaminski said after the event, before re-entering the building.

According to Szymon Holownia, speaker of the lower house of parliament, or Sejm, the December verdict meant Mr Kaminski and Mr Wasik lost their parliamentary mandates. But both denied that and said they planned to attend the next session of the Sejm.

Mr Duda met Mr Holownia on Monday to try to convince him that his pardon was valid and the court had no right to issue a second verdict, but they did not come to an agreement.

“The sitting planned this week will be moved to next week…There is one reason for this decision – my task is to ensure the dignity of the Sejm and social calm,” said Mr Holownia, a member of one of the parties in Mr Tusk’s centrist coalition.

Parliament had been due to vote on the 2024 budget at this week’s sitting. It has until the end of January to send the budget to Mr Duda for him to sign. If it does not do so, the president is empowered to dissolve parliament.

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