Polish police raid office of anti-racism group

AP News
Posted: Feb 03, 2017 9:28 AM
Polish police raid office of anti-racism group

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish police on Friday raided an organization that monitors racism and xenophobia and the private homes of some of its board members, seizing computers.

The head of the Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behavior said he considers the early-morning raids on Friday an attempt to intimidate the group and destroy evidence that is inconvenient for the authorities.

"It is a form of revenge on us, they want to silence us," Rafal Gawel told The Associated Press.

He said the group has exposed ties between local officials, prosecutors and right-wing groups in Bialystok, a city in eastern Poland. The group also runs a theater whose program is "not appreciated by the ruling party." It challenges the traditional national values on which the government is focused.

Gawel said he and other board members were "fearing for our lives" after receiving arson threats.

Lukasz Janyst, a spokesman for prosecutors in Bialystok, confirmed there were raids "at a number of locations in Warsaw" and said they were related to an investigation underway in Bialystok into fraud, the counterfeiting of documents and other wrongdoing. The investigation concerns the theater activity that the center's leaders opened in Bialystok and are now continuing in Warsaw.

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Janyst said more steps would be taken next week.

The anti-racism group said on Facebook it operates legally and accused Poland of "turning into a police state."

Some civic rights advocates say they fear authorities are trying to silence non-governmental groups, as increasingly authoritarian Hungary has done.

The center has been filing complaints to prosecutors across the nation about anti-Semitic slogans or graffiti and recently it complained to the state broadcasting authorities about an anti-Semitic comment that was broadcast on public television.