Opposition leader outraged over arrest of top party official

Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna. Photo: PAP/Marcin Bielecki

Leader of opposition party accused the government of a ‘politically motivated attack’ in the wake of arrest of fellow MP on corruption charges.

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On Monday, Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the Civic Platform (PO), Poland’s biggest opposition party, reacted fiercely to the arrest of Stanisław Gawłowski, the party secretary general who is facing corruption charges.

Stanisław Gawłowski is accused of accepting bribes in a wide-ranging government tender-rigging scandal and helping secure lucrative positions by illegal means. In addition, he also faces charges of plagiarism.

Mr Schetyna, whose party governed in a coalition for two full terms, cried foul of the arrest, calling it a “politically motivated attack”. He also alleged that the Polish opposition is being treated “like in Belarus, Turkey or Russia”.

“We will continue to supply the Polish and international public with extensive information about how the standards of rule of law in Poland are being violated”, he said, vowing to keep the European Commission and Parliament in the loop as well.

Katarzyna Lubnauer, leader of the Modern party, which has recently announced an electoral coalition with Civic Platform ahead of local elections, expressed a similar view, saying that “state institutions are being used to achieve political goals”. She also accused the ruling party of double standards with respect to the recent refusal of the Polish Senate to consent to the arrest of one of governing party senators who was likewise facing charges of bribery.

The arrest of Civic Platform’s secretary general is the latest in a series of scandals being investigated. Last week, the prosecution service requested Parliament to strip the party’s caucus leader of his immunity over abuse of power charges during the last term.

Special investigative committees were also set up to probe into the Amber Gold shadow bank collapse, which led more than 18,000 investors to lose their life savings. Another committee is expected to begin the investigation into a massive VAT scam. All of these scandals pertain to the period between 2007 and 2015, when the Civic Platform remained in power. Another parliamentary inquiry concerns real estate fraud since 1989 surrounding the Restitution of property which had been confiscated during communist times: local government officials had rubber stamped illicit claims.

The opposition leaders have adopted a strategy of denial, calling all charges “absurd” and accusing the government of breaches of rule of law principles and attempting to introduce a “creeping dictatorship” in Poland. They argue that the recent changes made to the justice system, such as combining the function of the Justice Minister and Attorney General, have undermined the impartiality of the prosecution service and the judiciary.

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