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Poland: Duda pardons politicians jailed for abuse of power

Duda, an ally of the ex-officials' PiS party, has defended them both

Duda, an ally of the ex-officials' PiS party, has defended them both

Polish president Andrzej Duda Tuesday pardoned former interior minister Mariusz Kaminski and his deputy Maciej Wasik.

The two were convicted of abuse of power for actions taken in 2007 and arrested earlier this month.

What do we know about the pardon?

Kaminski and Wasik, took refuge in the president’s palace before being arrested. The Polish president is an ally of their conservative Law and Justice party (PiS).

"The decision regarding the pardon has been issued. Both men are pardoned," Duda said in a statement on social media, adding that he was demanding their immediate release.

Duda particularly urged Kaminski's release, citing his "state of health." Both men had gone on hunger strike claiming to be "political prisoners".

New Prime Minister Donald Tusk has vowed to undo some PiS policies and to punish officials accused of wrongdoing during their time in office.

Their jailing was the latest incident in an escalating dispute between the new government, led by Tusk, and PiS, which governed Poland for eight years.

Why were the former officials convicted?

Ministers Kaminski and Wasik were convicted of abuse of power for actions taken in 2007, when they served in an earlier PiS-led government.

Duda pardoned them in 2015, though legal experts argued that such pardons are reserved for cases that have gone through the appeals process.

Last June, Poland's Supreme Court overturned their pardons.

Both had to face trial again. At the end of December, the Warsaw District Court sentenced them to two years in prison.

"For me, they have always been pardoned, but taking into account the social unrest, I decided to initiate the (new) pardon proceedings," Duda said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Justice Minister Adam Bodnar, who is also the prosecutor general, said the two men should not be pardoned but his opinion is not binding on the president.

rmt/lo (afp, dpa)