Pro-choice activists acquitted after protest in cathedral

A group of 32 protesters who interrupted a mass in a Polish cathedral with a pro-abortion rights demonstration have been acquitted of disturbance of a religious act.

Mass protests swept across Poland in late 2020 after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion in the case of a severely damaged foetus is unconstitutional. The ruling leaves only two situations in which a pregnancy can be terminated: when the pregnancy is the result of a crime or when it poses a danger to the mother's health or life.

A few days after the ruling was issued, 32 people interrupted a mass held in a cathedral in Poznan. They stood in front of the altar, brandishing banners with slogans demanding abortion rights and shouting "We have had enough!".

The prosecution said the protesters "together and in collaboration, maliciously interrupted the public performance of a religious act," a crime carrying the penalty of a fine, restriction of freedom or a jail sentence of up to two years.

The court in Poznan said on Monday that a wave of protests "spilled across the country" after the Constitutional Tribunal's verdict. The judge argued that evidence did not prove the "maliciousness" of the protesters who she said just wanted to express their disgruntlement with the ruling.

She said the protest maintained "solemnity and dignity" of the site and that the protesters chose the moment of the sermon to hold their demonstration. According to her, the slogans "did not incite hatred nor attacked religion in an insulting way."

Solidary Poland, a small Eurosceptic party within the conservative ruling coalition, which is led by Zbigniew Ziobro, the prosecutor general and justice minister, has recently supported a bill named "In Defence of Christians" which aims to increase penalties for "slandering or deriding the Church".