Sweden refuses extradition of Stalinist judge

Marcin Bednarski/PAP

A district court in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Thursday refused Poland's plea for the extradition of Stefan Michnik, a former Stalinist-era judge in Poland and today a Swedish citizen.

Michnik, a former judge of the communist-era Military District Court in Poland, is suspected of issuing unlawful death sentences against soldiers of the Polish underground. In all, he is suspected of 93 criminal acts as a judge in Warsaw in the 1950s.

Michnik moved to Sweden in 1968 and Poland's efforts to extradite him have failed so far. In November 2018, a Polish military court issued a European Arrest Warrant for the former Stalinist judge. In a statement to PAP at the time, the court wrote that Michnik's offenses were classifiable as crimes against humanity. In January 2019, an extradition request for Michnik was sent to a Gothenburg court.

In early February, the Swedish court refused to extradite Michnik, citing the expiry of the limitation period and the suspect's Swedish citizenship.

In its Thursday ruling, the Gothenburg court upheld the February verdict and cited an earlier statement by Swedish prosecutor Ulrika Bentelius Egelrud, who opined that "there is no possibility of extraditing Stefan Michnik to Poland."

Stefan Michnik is a step-brother of Adam Michnik, a high-profile oppositionist in the communist years and today editor-in-chief of Polish national daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

Commenting on the verdict, Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek called it "incomprehensible and irreconcilable with the rule of law," especially in light of the non-expiry of crimes against humanity. He added that Poland will continue in its efforts to bring Michnik to justice.