Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, president of the Polish bishops' conference, poses for a photo in Rome Sept. 25, 2021. OSV News photo/Romano Siciliani, KNA

Polish prelate offers help in case of jailed ex-members of government on hunger strike

By  KNA, OSV News
  • January 18, 2024

WARSAW, Poland -- The hunger strike by two imprisoned ex-members of the Polish government has caused an international stir. Now the church wants to try to resolve the conflict.

Poland's bishops' conference announced late Jan. 17 that its president, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, had written to both politicians -- former Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and his former Secretary of State Maciej Wasik -- offering to lobby the Minister of Justice Adam Bodnar for a "humanitarian intervention".

The men, each sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of office, see themselves as political prisoners and have gone on a hunger strike. Both imprisoned politicians are from the national-conservative opposition party PiS, which is the Law and Justice Party.

According to the bishops' conference, the wives of the two prisoners have approached the archbishop for help. They asked Archbishop Gadecki to mediate between their husbands and Bodnar.

In response to their request, in his letter to Kaminski and Wasik, Archbishop Gadecki promised to help both PiS politicians if they agreed. According to the church, the president of the Polish bishops called on the ex-members of the government to end their hunger strike, which was threatening not only their health but also their lives. At the same time, he assured them that he understood why they had resorted to "such a dramatic form of protest."

The police arrested Kaminski and Wasik Jan. 9 at the presidential palace in Warsaw, where they had taken refuge, and took them to prison. In December, an appeals court confirmed the prison sentences.

President Andrzej Duda, who is a PiS ally, now wants to pardon both politicians and has initiated the necessary proceedings. According to Polish media reports, these proceedings will last until at least the following week. Meanwhile, Duda announced Jan. 18, citing Kaminski's wife, that a court had ordered that the former interior minister be force-fed.

The Polish daily newspaper "Rzeczpospolita" criticized the move by the president of the bishops' conference. "The last thing the church in Poland needs today is to be dragged into a political game," it said in a commentary. Archbishop Gadecki had fallen into a "political trap" with the publication of his letter to Kaminski and Wasik, it added.

Both politicians were sentenced to prison for allegedly exceeding their powers as head and deputy head of the Polish anti-corruption authority in 2007. The courts considered it proven that they ordered the illegal surveillance of individuals and falsification of documents. Kaminski was minister from 2015 to 2023; Wasik was state secretary from 2019 to 2023.

Opposition leaders claim the imprisonment was "illegal" and is seen as "revenge" on the former PiS ministers who seeked to investigate the now-governing party-related affairs, reported, calling the move by the current government "cynical."

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