Polish president accuses German-owned tabloid of election meddling

WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish President Andrzej Duda suggested on Friday that Germany was trying to meddle in the presidential election after a German-owned tabloid newspaper reported on a pardon that he granted to a man who had served his sentence in a paedophilia case.

FILE PHOTO: Polish President and presidential candidate of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Andrzej Duda speaks after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the first round of presidential elections in Lowicz, Poland, June 28, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Duda, a conservative who faces a neck-and-neck race against a centrist opponent in a presidential runoff election on July 12, was angered by reporting by the Polish tabloid Fakt.

“Does Axel Springer, a company of German descent that owns the Fakt newspaper, want to influence the Polish presidential election?” Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), said during a campaign rally in the western town of Boleslawiec.

“Do the Germans want to choose the president in Poland?” he said.

The case, in which the pardon was granted in March, was initially reported by the Rzeczpospolita daily, but Fakt followed up with more details on Thursday.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who also serves as prosecutor general, confirmed the pardon was related to a paedophilia case but said it consisted only of lifting a restraining order and the man had served out his entire sentence.

Duda had applied the law of pardon following a request of a victim who was now an adult, added Ziobro, who was shown speaking by Polish state TVP.

According to Fakt the man finished serving his sentence five years ago.

Earlier on Friday, Duda’s re-election campaign spokesman, called on the German ambassador to Berlin to talk to the owners of Fakt.

“We do not want this kind of foreign interference in the electoral process,” spokesman Adam Bielan told public radio PR1.

The German embassy referred questions to the German ministry of foreign affairs, which declined to comment.

Fakt denied meddling in the election, saying in a statement published on its website that it is run by Polish journalists and editors.

PiS has long accused foreign-owned media outlets of meddling in Poland’s affairs.

Duda’s spokespeople could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by Alicja Ptak, Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Editing by Frances Kerry