Court slaps fines on demonstrators for staging mock execution of MEPs

Two organisers of a 2017 demonstration that featured a mock hanging of some Polish members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were given PLN 9,000 (EUR 1,960) fines by a court in Krakow on Friday.

The case concerns a 'manifestation' by nationalists in November 2017 in Katowice, at which pictures of six MEPs who had voted in favour of a European Parliament resolution on the rule of law in Poland were hung from symbolic gallows.

The incident, some in Poland claimed at the time, highlighted a growing problem of xenophobia and nationalism that had been allegedly nurtured by the government.

The court said that, in their statements at the demonstration, the defendants "not only expressed critical assessment of their (the MEPs) behaviour as traitors, but they also referred directly to the consequences that the members of the European Parliament may face by juxtaposing them with the consequences that were met by some leaders of the Targowica Confederation... i.e. public execution of the death penalty," Judge Agnieszka Senisson said in the rationale on the ruling.

The Targowica Confederation was a group of Polish and Lithuanian magnates who opposed the Constitution of May 3, 1791, and were considered traitors by nationalist groups.

According to the judge, the demonstrators' words, such as "holding politicians accountable in a stricter sense" and "there will be no shortage of gallows for the traitors" had been used as threats against the pictured MEPs.

However, the staging of the event itself had fallen within the limits of public debate, the judge said.

The verdict is still subject to appeal.