EU Parliament lifts immunity of four Polish ruling party MEPs

The European Parliament (EP) has voted to lift the immunity of four Law and Justice (PiS) MEPs who are accused in Poland of violating hate crime laws through an election advert that warned of the dangers of allowing immigrants into the country.

The decision by the EP to strip the immunity of Beata Kempa, Beata Mazurek, Patryk Jaki and Tomasz Poreba was based on accusations filed by Rafal Gawel, a left-wing Polish activist, who accused the four MEPs of "committing racist crimes in Poland" by re-tweeting or liking a PiS election spot on social media from a campaign before the 2018 local elections.

The video concerned the alleged threats related an influx of irregular immigrants to Europe could cause, and linked "enclaves of Muslim refugees" with sexual assaults and violent attacks.

It also suggested that a government formed by Civic Coalition, the largest opposition grouping, would lead to an influx of migrants, making residents "afraid to go out on the streets after dark."

Gawel, who was convicted of embezzlement in Poland in 2019 and is wanted by the Polish police, subsequently obtained asylum in Norway, claiming that he was the victim of a politicised justice system.

In November 2021, he filed a subsidiary indictment after the prosecutor's office twice dismissed his original claims as unfounded.

Thereafter, Edyta Snastin-Jurkun, a Warsaw court judge, submitted a request to the European Parliament to waive the immunities.

Gilles Lebreton, an MEP and rapporteur in the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee, whose task is to give opinions on such applications, stated that it was politically motivated and recommended its rejection.

On Tuesday, however, the Legal Affairs Committee voted in favour of the proposal.

Beata Mazurek, commenting on the ruling, said later on Thursday: "We are neither surprised nor shocked by this decision - we predicted that this would happen, taking into account what is occurring in this parliament.

"We are moving on, continuing our work, we are not limited in any way," she added. "We will certainly not succumb to such pressure and become intimidated or limited in our political activity."

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