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Thousands protest judicial reforms in Poland
17 July 2017, 01:58 | Justin Tyler
Malgorzata Gersdorf said the bill would transform the supreme court into one “attached to the justice ministry”Agencja Gazeta Slawomir Kaminski Reuters
Thousands of people rallied in Warsaw Sunday to oppose the Polish government's controversial new court reforms which opponents see as a threat to judicial independence. "The reform gives the politicians power over the judges", said Barbara Dolniak of the opposition Modern party.
A PiS-backed bill on the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a constitutional body tasked with safeguarding the independence of courts and judges, would see the terms of 15 of its members who are judges phased out, and their replacements selected by parliament - not by other legal professionals, as is now the case.
The noisy crowd in Warsaw chanted "We will defend democracy" as well as slogans against ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is Poland's most powerful politician.
According to government officials, reforms are needed because the country's judicial system is inefficient and does not serve the interests of the public.
An overhaul of the constitutional court and increased control over the prosecutor-general's office by the Justice Ministry have raised eyebrows overseas.
The PiS also tabled a separate bill in parliament on Thursday that would subjugate the Supreme Court - which supervises lower courts - to executive power, in a move the opposition slammed as "the announcement of a coup".
The introduction of the new law has yet to be added to the Sejm agenda for next week but it is expected that a debate and vote will take place because the session on July 18-20 is the last before the summer recess.
The country's fragmented opposition also promised to be more united against PiS.
Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the largest opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO), and key figures from other opposition groups suggested they were ready to join forces against the country's ruling conservatives and make efforts to form a single parliamentary caucus.
"It's a destruction of the fundamental principles of a democratic state, namely the separation of powers", she told AFP.
The main demonstration, in the capital, Warsaw, started at 3 p.m. local time (1400 UTC) in front the parliament building, which was cordoned off, with a heavy police presence in the area.
Poles also rallied in other cities across Poland including Krakow, Szczecin and Wroclaw.
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