‘This is intimidation of the opposition.’ Scheuring-Wielgus MP is being prosecuted by Judge Piebiak
‘We have entered a very bloody year, a campaign year, there will be no holds barred,’ Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus says. This time, Ziobro’s former ‘chief of staff’ wants to deprive her of her immunity. She called Łukasz Piebiak the ‘head of a set-up’ who was looking for dirt on judges and prosecutors
This is the third motion to strip Left Party MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus of her immunity. She has already been deprived of her protection in two cases. And, in one of them, charges of insulting religious feelings have even been pressed; the indictment was filed with a court in Toruń just before Christmas – on 22 December.
This time, it is about allegedly insulting Łukasz Piebiak, a former deputy minister of justice.
Piebiak’s motion to lift the MP’s immunity had been lying in the drawers of the Sejm’s Regulation Committee for over two years. It was unexpectedly pulled out by the committee chairman and will be considered on 10 January 2023. ‘I don’t know why they have woken up on this matter now,’ Scheuring-Wielgus tells us.
It is about her statement of 15 July 2020. She was justifying her support for the motion of no confidence of Minister Zbigniew Ziobro on behalf of the Left Club. She then turned to him and said: ‘It was your deputy minister Piebiak who was the head of a set-up intended to find dirt on judges and prosecutors’.
Two months later, Piebiak filed a private indictment against her. He claims the MP had ‘falsely slandered’ him and accused her of defamation under Article 212 of the Penal Code. She will be facing a ‘fine, the restriction of freedom or imprisonment for up to a year.’
‘This is intimidation of all of us from the opposition’
‘There is some demand for me from the Ministry of Justice,’ believes Scheuring-Wielgus.
Charges of insulting feelings and malicious obstruction of religious worship have already been pressed against the MP. The case is being handled ex officio, she was charged by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Toruń. The prosecutor’s office was outraged that, during the women’s protests in the autumn of 2020, Scheuring-Wielgus went to the church where she had got married and, together with her husband, stood there for a minute with a sign stating: ‘Woman, you can decide for yourself.’ She is facing up to two years imprisonment for that.
She is facing a restriction of freedom or a fine for her involvement in the ‘Baby Shoes Remember’ campaign in 2018. She was protesting then against the cover-up of paedophilia by the church. She hung baby shoes on the gate of the St. Johns’ Cathedral in Toruń – as did many others that day. She is being prosecuted by the police chief in that case.
In both cases, the PiS parliamentary majority voted to strip her of her legal protection.
‘I’m a pawn,’ believes Scheuring-Wielgus. ‘This is all for show. About showing the opposition politicians and others who oppose this authority: look and see what will happen. These are unpleasant situations for people who have not encountered this.’
‘This is intimidation of all of us from the opposition. We have entered a very bloody year, a campaign year, there will be no holds barred. For Ziobro, the conviction of an opposition MP would be a demonstration that he is the sheriff, he would show strength, causality,’ assesses Scheuring-Wielgus.
According to Article 99 of the Constitution, nobody convicted ‘with a final sentence of imprisonment for an intentional crime prosecuted by public indictment’ can be elected to the Sejm or the Senate.
Piebiak instructed ‘smashing a caste-member’ and the deputy minister’s other merits
Who is Łukasz Piebiak, about whom Scheuring-Wielgus said he was the ‘head of a set-up’ looking for ‘dirt on judges and prosecutors’?
At the Ministry of Justice, he was Zbigniew Ziobro’s deputy (from November 2015 to August 2019), responsible for the judiciary. The media referred to him as ‘chief of staff’ during the mass replacement of judges in 2017 and 2018.
He actively collaborated with online hater and later whistleblower Emilia Szmydt (she used the nickname Little Emi on Twitter) in a smear campaign against judges opposing the changes being implemented by PiS.
Onet portal revealed this in August 2019. He was frequently referred to as the ‘ringleader’ of that group. Piebiak resigned after Onet revealed the existence of a troll farm in the Ministry of Justice.
In April 2022, OKO.press and Onet disclosed evidence ‘that the former deputy minister had not only coordinated the hate campaign against judges, but had gone further. He revealed internal official ministry documents, namely personal information on judges, to which only the ministry’s management, its personnel services or – by way of exception – the chief disciplinary commissioners (appointed by Minister Ziobro) should have access, to outsiders.’
‘Smash some caste member,’ wrote Piebiak on 25 October 2018 in the Antykasta [Eng.: Anti-caste] group to deputy disciplinary commissioner Michal Lasota.
Members of the Antykasta group on WhatsApp referred to judges opposing the changes being introduced by PiS to the judiciary as ‘kaściak’ [Eng.: caste member].
Today, Piebiak is working at the Justice Institute, which is subordinated to the Ministry of Justice. He also became a judge of the Supreme Administrative Court nominated by the neo-NCJ.
‘She may have jeopardised the confidence needed to hold the office of judge’
‘I accuse Joanna Izabela Scheuring-Wielgus, née Bąkowska, of publicly falsely slandering Judge Łukasz Konrad Piebiak on 15 July 2020 in Warsaw from the rostrum of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, simultaneously doing this via the mass media,’ wrote Piebiak in a private indictment filed on 8 September 2020 with the District Court for Warsaw-Śródmieście.
What did Scheuring-Wielgus ‘falsely slander’ him about?
‘About the fact that, while holding the position of Deputy Minister of Justice, he was the head of a set-up whose objective was to find dirt on judges and prosecutors, i.e. such conduct that could humiliate him in public or expose him to a loss of the trust needed to hold the office of a judge – i.e. a crime from Article 212 item 2 of the Penal Code,’ reads Piebiak’s indictment.
He then also submitted a motion to the Sejm to lift the MP’s immunity and justified it as follows:
‘According to the applicant, this action satisfies the premises of the crime specified in Article 212 of the Penal Code, because the good name is protected by this provision against the offence of defamation, while everyone is entitled to protection of their good name, regardless of their reputation’.
What exactly did Scheuring-Wielgus say? She addressed Zbigniew Ziobro from the parliamentary rostrum:
‘Another sin, personnel. You put your colleagues wherever you want, in prominent positions in courts throughout the country, and you try to degrade, demote, transfer and intimidate those who are independent. You have also obviously taken care of your wife and your brother. You are also the main actor in the dismantling of the rule of law, pitting the public against the judges and calling them a privileged caste. (…) It was your deputy minister Piebiak who was the head of a set-up intended to find dirt on judges and prosecutors. It’s your man, [MP Dariusz] Matecki, who is running dozens of pages posting racist content.’
The debate in the committee on lifting the MP’s immunity will be held on 10 January. While the vote – almost certainly at a session – will be held on 11–13 January.
That same day, the committee will consider the Regional Prosecutor’s request for permission to prosecute Civic Platform MP Sławomir Nitras. The PiS majority has already lifted his immunity once, in April 2022. For what? Nitras pointed out that a former activist of the Kukiz’15 movement was walking around the Sejm wearing a T-shirt with racist inscriptions.
The article was published in Polish at OKO.press on 4th January 2023.