Polish police release protesters' photos, seeking identities

AP News
Posted: Jan 19, 2017 2:22 PM
Polish police release protesters' photos, seeking identities

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's interior minister defended the decision to post photos of some anti-government protesters to illustrate the country's "zero tolerance for breaches of the law," but opposition lawmakers Thursday called it an act of "political revenge" intended to intimidate government critics.

Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak was referring to the publication on the Warsaw police department's website of images of 21 people who took part in a Dec. 16 protest outside Poland's parliament. Police want to identify and question some of the protest participants as part of an ongoing investigation.

Some of the protesters lay down in the street and blocked the passage of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo's car, but police made no arrests at the time. Blaszczak said the blockade was illegal and the suspects should be "brought to account." If found guilty of violating the law, they could face fines or brief arrest.

The interior minister said another 80 people in Warsaw and 22 in Krakow have been identified as violating the law during December protests.

Opposition lawmakers said the photos are meant to discourage citizens from attending protests. Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the main opposition party, Civic Platform, said he was waiting for the prime minister to say who in her government was responsible for "stigmatizing" people.

"We will not allow for political revenge, for the kind of actions that the interior minister is organizing," Schetyna said.

Poland is criticized by some European Union leaders who say that the policies of the conservative government that took office in 2015 are threatening democracy. Hundreds of thousands of Poles have rallied against the government.

Speaking on private Radio Zet, Blaszczak invoked former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as his role model. Giuliani was known for promoting tough law enforcement policies that critics saw as curtailing civil liberties.

"There is no consent, (there is) zero tolerance for breaches of law," Blaszczak said. "This principle was proven effective in its time in New York....It will be proven effective also in Poland."

The growing divisions in the nation were visible late Wednesday when angry groups disrupted separate appearances by the leaders of the ruling Law and Justice party and Civic Platform.

In Krakow, protesters chanted as Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski arrived for his monthly visit to the tomb of his twin brother, the late President Lech Kaczynski.

Opposition's Schetyna faced hostile chants from a right-wing group during a meeting with the residents of Tarnow, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Krakow.