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Thousands protest judicial changes amid political storm

PR dla Zagranicy
Victoria Bieniek 23.07.2017 15:11
Thousands took to the streets across Poland on Saturday night to protest the Senate's green light for legislation to overhaul the country’s Supreme Court, amid a political storm over the judiciary.
Protesters in Wrocław, southwestern Poland. Photo: PAP/Maciej Kulczyński.Protesters in Wrocław, southwestern Poland. Photo: PAP/Maciej Kulczyński.

Protesters held peaceful candle-lit vigils demanding that President Andrzej Duda veto the Supreme Court reform bill.

They were largely also concerned over earlier-passed bills to change the ways judges are selected to a powerful judges' ethics council and to district and appeals courts.

For the first time since protests started more than a week ago, demonstrators gathered outside the Warsaw villa of Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland's ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, which backed the judicial reform bills.

Lech Wałęsa, ex Polish president and iconic former trade union leader, spoke on Saturday to demonstrators in Gdańsk, the birthplace of the Solidarity movement in northern Poland, urging them to to fight for the nation's democracy, as he put it, and against plans to reform the judiciary.

PiS has said sweeping changes are needed to reform an inefficient and sometimes corrupt judicial system, accusing judges of being an elite, self-serving clique often out of touch with the problems of ordinary citizens.

To become law, Duda must sign the bill within 21 days. Duda hails from PiS and has a record of signing into law most bills passed by the PiS-dominated parliament.

According to a survey for private television station TVN broadcast on Friday, 55 percent of respondents wanted the president to block the bill, while 29 percent said he should sign it. (mo/vb)

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