Thousands protest against judiciary reforms in Poland

Thousands protest against judiciary reforms in Poland”

Poland on Sunday saw several demonstrations against new legislation that critics see as tightening the government's grip on the country's justice system.

Protesters on Sunday were cordoned off from the main entrance to the parliament by barricades erected ahead of the demonstrations. "We will stop the coup".

Senator Bogdan Borusewicz, from the Civil Platform (PO) main opposition party, said that "both bills destroy judicial independence".

Police estimated the crowd at about 4,500, a number far lower than city hall estimates, which put the number above 10,000.

Sunday's demonstrations were the latest in a string of anti-government protests since the conservative and populist Law and Justice party took political control in 2015.

"Shame, shame" chanted protesters gathered in Warsaw under Polish and European Union flags, and calling Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chairman of PiS and the country's de facto leader, a "dictator". "The reform gives the politicians power over the judges", said Barbara Dolniak of the opposition Modern party.

Under the proposed bill, the current Supreme Court justices will be forced to retire, with the exception of those named by the justice minister, who would also be responsible for selecting candidates to succeed the retired judges.

The letter was published after Poland's Senate, in the early hours of Saturday morning, approved two other laws - one of which disbands an independent body that nominates judges and the other of which gives the justice minister the right to dismiss the presidents of regional and appeal courts.

He said that "far-reaching, radical actions" were required in the judiciary, which he said had not been reformed since communist times.

PiS is accused of placing party loyalists on another top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, soon after winning the September 2016 election. Both laws were passed by the lower house of parliament (the Sejm) on Wednesday.

Those gathered, who included government critics and leaders of some opposition parties, argued the changes would limit judicial independence and threaten the separation of powers in the country. PiS also argues the judiciary was not purged after the fall of communism, suggesting the ideology affects the branch.

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