Polish judge critical of government spared detention

Warsaw (AFP) –


A Polish judge has been spared detention after a controversial disciplinary body rejected Thursday a request to bring him before prosecutors to face charges that he exceeded his mandate.

The EU member's judicial system has become a battleground between independent judges and the ruling rightwing party that is seeking to impose reforms in the courts -- which critics say are aimed at muzzling dissent.

Prosecutors claim Warsaw district court judge Igor Tuleya overstepped his authority when he allowed media into his court during a hearing on whether the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party had violated rules during a 2016 parliamentary vote.

The disciplinary chamber, within the Supreme Court, said after a marathon two full days of deliberation that it had "considered matters related to human freedom".

Tuleya told supporters: "It's a small battle that we won, but the war to protect the rule of law continues."

The 50-year-old, who was suspended and stripped of his immunity last year, added: "We'll fight till the end."

Prosecutors can still appeal the decision.

They had sought to have Tuleya detained and brought to them by force after he failed to appear on three occasions to face charges.

But Tuleya's supporters believe the prosecutor's office targeted him in reprisal for his vocal criticism of judicial changes introduced by the PiS since it took over in 2015.

The disciplinary chamber behind Thursday's decision is itself one of the controversial reforms introduced by the PiS.

The party argues the changes are necessary to tackle corruption in a judiciary still haunted by communism, but opponents at home and abroad say they pose a threat to the rule of law.

Last month, the European Commission said it was taking Poland to the European Court of Justice for undermining judicial independence.