June 21, 2014 / 10:21 AM / 3 years ago

Polish prosecutor says prepared to step down over tape row if necessary

WARSAW, June 21 (Reuters) - Poland’s prosecutor general said he was prepared to step down after law enforcement officers raided a magazine trying to seize leaked tapes that embarrassed senior officials, but felt that was not the right course of action.

Prosecutors, internal security agency officers and police raided the offices of the Wprost news magazine on Wednesday, after the magazine published tapes of private conversations between senior officials, which have triggered a political crisis.

The raid caused an uproar in the media and among opposition politicians, who said freedom of speech was at stake in Poland.

“I have many times heard the callings on me to step down,” prosecutor general Andrzej Seremet said at a news conference late on Friday. “If my dismissal would contribute to calming the situation, I‘m ready to do it. But I don’t think this is the right way.”

Prime Minister Donald Tusk is facing opposition calls to fire ministers following publication of the tapes, and has hinted he may be forced to call a snap election.

The tapes included a discussion between central bank chief Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz in which the two men talked about how the central bank might help the government avoid election defeat, and ways to put pressure on a businessman.

Both men have said their words were taken out of context and they did not break the law. They say the ideas they were discussing never materialised.

Justice Minister Marek Biernacki said on Thursday that the prosecutors’ actions could be considered “too far-reaching” and that the situation “should have never taken place.”

Seremet on Friday defended the raid, saying “prosecutors went there (to Wprost offices) to execute the law,” but he acknowledged that the fallout from the tapes had caused a row between his office and the Justice Ministry. (Reporting by Adrian Krajewski; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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