Polish justice minister survives no-confidence vote

Poland's Justice Minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, survived a no-confidence vote in the lower house of the Polish parliament on Wednesday.

In the vote, 174 MPs supported the motion, while 240 voted against. Seven MPs abstained. The evening vote was preceded by a debate involving top politicians of the ruling party and the opposition. The motion had been submitted by the largest opposition parliamentary caucus, the Civic Platform-Civic Coalition.

The vote over minister Ziobro came after a smear campaign scandal was revealed in late August, involving employees of the Justice Ministry, including former deputy minister Łukasz Piebiak. According to opposition figures, the Justice Minister himself could also be involved in the campaign, or at least knew about the procedure.

The Civic Coalition head, Grzegorz Schetyna, said that the motion was a result of revealing of “an organised group of judges in the Justice Ministry, who had been spreading hate and hate speech.”

“Full responsibility for what was happening in the Justice Ministry rests with the person who, according to the constitution, appoints his deputies. This person is the justice minister, present here, who should step down,” said Civic Platform MP Borys Budka, himself a former Justice Minister.

During the debate, Minister Ziobro stressed that the motion to dismiss him had been filed “exactly the moment when Polish prosecutors were issuing an order to secure a record-breaking PLN 1.4 billion… We've taken it away from drug cartels, mafia, and money launderers,” Mr Ziobro said.

Poland’s PM stressed that the motion “is baseless, as it pertains to a reality that was quickly repaired.”

Smear campaign

The Onet website described how one of the internet campaigns launched by a pro-government internet activist was an attack on the head of the “Iustitia” judicial association, Prof. Krystian Markiewicz, that featured gossip about his personal life and intimate relations.

According to the website, deputy Justice Minister Łukasz Piebiak received documents from a court employee and communicated extensively with her on ways to attack the “Iustitia” judges on social media.

When the court employee – who provided the documents and offered to use them online – said that she hoped she would not go to jail, the deputy minister wrote to her saying “we don’t put people in jail for doing good.”

The deputy minister is also alleged to have sent home address details of Judge Markiewicz to the court employee.

Following media reports on the matter, Łukasz Piebiak announced his resignation from office.