Polish judge critical of government can return to work

Poland's Supreme Court has annulled the suspension of a judge, who has been fiercely critical of the government's changes to the country’s judicial system, and has not approved his detention so that he could be brought before a prosecutor.

Judge Igor Tuleya, who is facing charges for an alleged criminal breach of laws protecting the secrecy of an investigation, has become a symbol of opposition to an overhaul of the judicial system that critics claim undermines the rule of law.

According to a judge of the Supreme Court, Tuleya had been acting within the limits and on the basis of the law.

"In such a situation there could not be a reasonable belief that a forbidden act had been committed," Malgorzata Wasek-Wiaderek said, adding that the prosecution appeal against the verdict "was groundless."

The Supreme Court annulled the ruling of the then Disciplinary Chamber which had suspended Tuleya and lowered his remuneration.

The Supreme Court also said that it was possible to renew proceedings regarding Tuleya's immunity.

Tuleya was stripped of his immunity in November, 2020 by the then Supreme Court's Disciplinary Chamber, which was set up to deal with judges who behave unethically or break the law, and those who questioned the legitimacy of the government-reformed National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body which nominates judges.

The prosecution had repeatedly asked Tuleya to testify but he had refused to be questioned, having said that he had not considered the Disciplinary Chamber a court and its decisions as valid.

The Disciplinary Chamber was liquidated in the summer of 2022, and replaced with the Chamber of Professional Responsibility.

Later on Tuesday, Tuleya told PAP that he would go back to work at his court on Wednesday.

"But I am ready for any turn of events," the judge said, adding that for him the Chamber of Professional Responsibility was still not a court.

"I had been suspended by a body which was not a court, and I have been reinstated by another body which is not a court," Tuleya said, adding that the last two years looked like "a deep sleep" to him.

"My position has not changed. This is not a court and, in fact, one could doubt whether the people working there could adjudicate," the judge said.

Referring to the ruling, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the Chamber of Professional Responsibility had been taking independent decisions.

"I cannot say anything more," he said.

"Contrary to numerous statements, we want all courts to take fully independent decisions, no matter whether they are compatible with the desires of one or another political grouping," Morawiecki added.