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Polish deputy minister embroiled in anti-judiciary scandal

UPDATE: Mr Piebiak resigned from his post on the evening of August 21.

Yet another scandal has hit the Polish ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), just 52 days before parliamentary elections. On August 19, Polish news-site onet.pl revealed that the country’s deputy justice minister, Łukasz Piebiak (pictured above, in 2016), was personally involved in a smear campaign against the judiciary that opposed government reforms. 

This comes after a series of attacks against the independence of the Polish judiciary that has been condemned by the EU and multiple international bodies. 

According to onet.pl’s investigation, Mr Piebiak organised a hate campaign against several judges along with pro-government activist Emilia, whose full name has been withheld. 

The campaign involved fabricating damaging information which was then spread on social media through a series of pro-government NGO’s and Twitter accounts.

According to the investigation, one of the more notable attacks involved both Mr Piebiak and Emilia conspiring to spread false stories about Krystian Markiewicz, the head of Polish judges association Lustita. After Mr Markiewicz criticised the government’s attacks against the judiciary, Emilia then spread the story that he had had an affair, had got his lover pregnant then pressured her into an abortion. She then emailed this to over 2,500 journalists with Piebiak vowing to giver her immunity. “We don’t jail people for doing good,” he wrote.

Another attack came against judge Piotr Gaciark and featured a similar tactic by Emilia who again spread false personal information about Mr Gaciark’s relationship with his girlfriend. 

On August 20, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said in a statement that “I demanded explanations from the minister of justice in this matter. We will see what these explanations will be and take the appropriate decisions”.

The justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, has claimed he was unaware of the campaign and has not yet commented on the scandal. This is despite reports that Mr Piebiak wrote in his emails that he always kept his ‘boss’ informed. Mr Zioboro has been a key figure in the PiS government.  

In an interview with Bloomberg, Warsaw University political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska said that: “This is an assault on the judicial branch coming from the justice ministry, so the scope of this scandal is beyond any scale,” adding, “In normal circumstances this should provoke an earthquake and a wave of dismissals at the justice ministry. Will is happen two months ahead of elections? I don’t think so.”