Thousands in Poland protest against latest judicial reforms

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Thousands gathered in cities across Poland on Wednesday to protest against a proposal by the ruling nationalists that would allow for judges to be fired if they question the legitimacy of the government’s judicial reforms.

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has vowed to keep reforming its justice system after winning an election in October, putting it on a collision course with the European Union which has repeatedly argued the reforms are in breach of EU law and Poland’s constitution.

PiS says its reforms are necessary to make the court system more efficient.

Several thousand people gathered in front of Poland’s parliament in Warsaw, where protesters chanted “Free courts!” and “We will win!” while waving Polish flags.

“An enslaved court leads to an enslaved nation... I’ve seen how communist mechanisms work and I don’t want a repeat. It’s also my country, not just the ruling government’s,” said Ewa Karbowska, 59, who attended the Warsaw protest.

Protesters also gathered in the cities of Wroclaw, Torun, Poznan, Szczecin, Katowice and Bialystok, among others, carrying EU flags, with some wearing tape over their mouths that said “Today judges, tomorrow us,” according to private broadcaster TVN.

Under draft legislation expected to be discussed in parliament on Thursday, PiS aims to prevent judges from ruling that peers, nominated by a panel appointed by the PiS-dominated parliament, are not independent.

Parliament’s Bureau Of Research on Tuesday wrote an opinion in which it said the draft law as it stood could be in breach of EU law, specifically calling into question the independence and impartiality of the court and judges.

There were protests earlier this year after a judge from the city of Olsztyn was suspended for questioning the ruling party’s judicial reforms.

Reporting by Alicja Ptak and Jaroslaw Gawlowski; Writing by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Hugh Lawson