Newshour, Poland: Protests mount over Supreme Court "purge"

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Poland is in the grips of a constitutional crisis, with the head of the Supreme Court standing in open defiance of the president - whose party enacted a new law that will force almost 40 percent of the court's judges into early retirement.

Gersdorf still showed up for work Wednesday, insisting that according to the constitution, her six-year term runs through 2020.

Malgorzata Gersdorf has branded the PiS reform, which lowers the retirement age of its judges from 70 to 65, as a "purge of the Supreme Court conducted under the guise of retirement reform". If it refuses to reverse course, Poland could be ordered to desist from implementation until the court of justice has issued its ruling.

She said after showing up for work that she plans to go on holiday from next week, and that Iwulski would be standing in for her during her absence. Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has used another law to change nearly 20% ordinary court presidents or their deputies.

Twenty-seven of the Supreme Court's 73 judges are affected by the new law.

Since "there was no step from the Polish side to reverse them, we made the decision to launch the infringement procedure as a matter of urgency to defend the independence of the Polish judiciary", European Union spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

Government spokeswoman Joanna Kopcinska said Monday that the government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is fulfilling its promise to voters to clean up a broken justice system — changes she said previous governments should have made but didn't.

Demonstrators rallying in support of the defiant judges were expected to take to the streets around the Supreme Court in Warsaw later on Tuesday as well as on Wednesday.

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The EU on Monday launched legal action against Poland over the Supreme Court reforms that critics have decried as unconstitutional.

"The European Union does not need Nord Stream 2, which increases the risk of Central Europe being destabilized and which gives Russian Federation very strong tools of influence, not only over the European economy, but also on European policy", Morawiecki said.

Under the new rules, the 65-year-old judge should have asked President Andrzej Duda for an extension of her mandate if she was to be of retirement age on July 4.

The government insists it is improving Poland's justice system, saying it is inefficient and controlled by a "caste" of judges, many of whom were active in the communist era. Gersdorf did not, arguing that her term continues, but she is not expecting Duda to share that view.

Hundreds of people demonstrate to support the Polish Supreme Court Justice president in front of the Supreme Court building in Warsaw. "The court system.is an entirely internal matter", PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted by the PAP news agency on Tuesday as telling Gazeta Polska newspaper.

Amnesty International last month warned that Polish citizens' human rights were at risk from "systematic erosion of guarantees for an independent judiciary" and urged the Polish government and parliament to amend the laws in question.

Brussels in Dec triggered Article Seven proceedings against Poland over "systemic threats" to the rule of law, which could eventually see Warsaw's European Union voting rights suspended.

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