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WARSAW – Accusations that the Polish government spied on opposition journalists, lawyers and politicians have pushed the country’s democracy to a tipping point, according to lawyer Donald Tusk.
“This goes to the heart of the question of judicial independence and constitutes a really serious moment for Polish democracy”, Roman Giertych, former ally of power The Law and Justice (PiS) party has become a prominent opposition advocate, POLITICO said.
Giertych, who also represents former Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, said the allegations show that Poland has now become a “de facto one-party state, where the separation of powers actually makes no sense. They have crossed the Rubicon “.
“This government is now using legislation and special powers reserved to fight terrorism for its own political purposes,” Giertych said. “The [office of the] prosecutor was being used as an instrument to attack the opposition ahead of the 2019 elections. ”
The spyware in question, known as Pegasus and manufactured by the Israeli group NSO, turns phones into spy devices, allowing the user to read messages, view photos and track locations.
Citizen Lab – a Canada-based cybersecurity watchdog – said last week that Pegasus was used against Giertych, opposition activist Ewa Wrzosek and Krzysztof Brejza, who coordinated the Civic Platform’s 2019 election campaign (PO) of the opposition. Wrzosek is an independent prosecutor who opposed the government’s judicial reforms and ordered an investigation into whether the 2020 presidential elections should have been postponed. Citizen Lab said it detected spyware used in Poland as early as November 2017.
Rzeczpospolita daily reported that Giertych was located using Pegasus software in 2019 and his phone was hacked at least 18 times.
Giertych – Minister of Education of the first PiS government (2005-2007) as a member of the League of Polish Families party – was arrested by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) in October 2020 on charges of money laundering ‘silver. His arrest came the day before a scheduled detention hearing in another politically explosive case, that of Leszek Czarnecki, owner of Idea Bank and then a suspect in an investigation into what has been called the GetBack affair.
Tusk, who was President of the European Council between 2014 and 2019 and is now PO chief, has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the spyware allegations. The PiS has a majority in the lower house of parliament and is unlikely to support such an inquiry.
“We have filed a complaint against [Interior Minister Zbigniew] Ziobro at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for human rights violations, ”said Giertych.
The problem comes as Poland and Brussels continue to argue over Warsaw’s judicial reforms and what the European Commission has described as Poland’s democratic retreat.
The question of who will prevail over the judicial rules, those of Poland or the EU, is at the heart of the struggle. Poland is accused of flouting and disrespecting EU rules.
The timing is also interesting, with the allegations coming during a delicate domestic political period for the PiS-led government. This week, he failed to pass a controversial flagship media bill effectively banning foreign media ownership. It is also difficult to cope with a series of measures allegedly initiated by Russia to push refugees illegally into Poland, and ongoing issues over the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as tensions in Ukraine escalate.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Tuesday that the spyware reports were “fake news” and that he was unaware of any surveillance. He added that if there had been, it might not have been the work of the Polish intelligence services.
Stanisław Żaryn, spokesman for the ministry in charge of special services, also denied the allegations but did not confirm or deny whether Poland had used Pegasus. He told reporters that “operational work” in Poland can only be done at the request of the public prosecutor after a court ruling.
Ziobro, who led the government’s campaign to reform the judiciary and, according to his critics, politicize the prosecutor’s office, said he had “no knowledge of illegal activities taking place in Poland” regarding the surveillance of public prosecutors. citizens.
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