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Gov’t will not allow people to feel threatened: Polish PM

The government will not allow people to feel threatened, Prime Minister Beata Szydło has said after police released photos of protesters participating in anti-government rallies. “We will not allow anyone to be worried about their trip to school, to the store, or as in the case of December events, to leave parliament, because an angry crowd … wants to disrupt someone’s peace or threaten [them],” Szydło said.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced an inquiry had been launched into protests outside the parliament building in Warsaw, which started on 16 December when opposition MPs started a sit-in inside.

Błaszczak also said police had listed 80 people who allegedly broke the law while they gathered outside parliament in the protest, which blocked MPs’ cars from leaving the building.

Photos of 21 people were published on the police website.

Błaszczak said he expects those people to turn themselves over to police, or that the public helps to identify them.

Security ‘threatened’

However, Szydło said that those protesters were not the only ones threatening security in Poland.

“[Education] Minister Anna Zalweska, who went for a meeting about education reform … was also attacked,” Szydło said.

She also said that the motorcade of the leader of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, who was on his way to visit the grave of his brother in Kraków, was also disrupted by protesters.

Publishing images of the protesters aims to increase security, Szydło said.

‘Political revenge’

But opposition MPs have said publishing the photos online is “political revenge” and “stigmatises” anti-government protesters.

Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the Civic Platform (PO) party, said: “We will not allow, 27 years after Poland recovered independence and sovereignty, for the ruling party to break the law in Poland in such a way.”

According to Schetyna, the phones of opposition MPs may have been tapped.

The PO caucus leader, Sławomir Neumann, said: “In a free, democratic country, eavesdropping on the opposition or citizens who come to a peaceful protest is unbelievable.”

Neumann announced that two letters would on Thursday be sent to Szydło in relation to the police inquiry.

The first demands that the name of the person “who gave the order to undertake repressive actions against citizens protesting from 16 December to 12 January” to be revealed.

The second letter requests information about the “invigilation” of MPs protesting in parliament’s plenary hall in the same period.

Legal basis questioned

Poland’s Commissioner for Human Rights has questioned the legal basis for releasing the photos, referring to a statement released on the police website.

“The police claim … that the people, whose identities are unknown, violated the order of the law, and not that they are suspected of violating that order,” the commissioner, Adam Bodnar, said.

Solidarity on Twitter

Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity with those pictured on the police website, some MPs have taken to Twitter, posting their own photos on “Wanted” signs and jeering at the interior and justice ministers that only a handful of the crowd which protested were identified.

Nearly a month of protests both inside and outside the parliament building started when on 16 December the Speaker of the lower house excluded an opposition MP from debate, after he raised the issue of contentious planned changes to rules on media access to parliament.

Opposition MPs then stormed the rostrum, blocking proceedings.

Following several hours of recess, PiS deputies convened in an ancillary hall and passed the 2017 budget. Opposition MPs have said that the vote, carried out by a raising of hands, was illegal, and should be repeated. But MPs from Law and Justice insisted the ballot was legal.

The sit-in in parliament’s plenary hall and protests outside parliament continued until 12 January.

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