WARSAW (Reuters) - Thousands took to the streets across Poland on Sunday to show solidarity with judges after one was suspended for questioning the ruling party’s judicial reforms, in a sign that concerns over the rule of law will mark its second term in power.
Since taking office in 2015 Law and Justice (PiS) has been at loggerheads with the European Union over reforms which critics say undermine judicial independence.
The suspension of Judge Pawel Juszczyszyn last week brought the issue back to the fore.
“I believe that law and honesty will win in the end,” Juszczyszyn told protesters in front of the Ministry of Justice in Warsaw.
“I call on judges - don’t let yourselves be frightened, be independent, be brave, we are strong,” he said.
The government has justified the widespread judicial reforms - including how judges are appointed - by saying they are necessary to improve efficiency of courts and root out the vestiges of the 1945-89 communist era.
Protestors gathered in at least 105 towns and cities according to organizers, and television coverage showed them waving Polish and European Union flags and brandishing placards with slogans such as “Without law there is no justice”.
Nobel prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk had been among those calling on people to protest.
“I express my solidarity with the repressed judges and encourage you to join demonstrations in their defense,” she tweeted.
Warsaw police declined to say how many were protesting in the city.
Juszczyszyn, a judge delegated to the regional court in Olsztyn, eastern Poland, from a lower level court was abruptly revoked when he questioned the appointment of a judge by a new body under rules introduced by PiS.
On Thursday, a disciplinary officer appointed by the minister of justice started a case against him and on Friday he was suspended.
Reporting by Jaroslaw Gawlowski, writing by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Alan Charlish, editing by Louise Heavens