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Four Polish MEPs stripped of immunity over migrant-hate clip

8 months ago 33

The European Parliament has lifted the immunity of four rightwing Polish MEPs over allegedly inciting hatred against Muslim immigrants during a municipal electoral campaign in 2018.

The vote, on Thursday (9 November), stripped the parliamentary immunity of Patryk Jaki, Tomasz Piotr Poręba, Beata Mazurek, and Beata Kempa.

Poręba and Mazurek hail from the rulling Polish nationalist-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), which has drummed up fear over asylum seekers as a pretext to secure election gains, while Jaki and Kempa belong to the PiS-allied Catholic-nationalist Sovereign Poland party.

None of them responded to emailed questions on having their immunity lifted, as well as on their alleged crime of public incitement to hatred on the basis of national, ethnic, and religious differences.

Instead, they posted their grievances on X, formally known as Twitter.

"They call it 'hate speech' and want to convict us of par. 256 of the Penal Code, which is punishable by three years in prison," said Jaki, noting that a conviction means he will not be able to stand for elections.

"They are taking away immunities for freedom of speech!," Kempa wrote.

Mazurek made similar comments.

"They want to convict us for our likes. This is a clear demonstration of arrogance and mockery of law and freedom, the foundations of democracy," she wrote.

The offences allegedly committed by the four MEPs followed a 2018 municipal election campaign ad on X, which framed Muslim asylum seekers as criminals and rapists.

The clip presented a fictionalised news report set in 2020 that sought to blame opposition party Civic Platform (PO) for a crime wave after allowing in thousands of Muslim asylum seekers.

"A year has passed since the Civic Platform liquidated the provincial offices," announces a fictional television news host.

The clip then says there are reports of "immigrant enclaves" and that "sexual assaults have become an everyday occurrence."

The comments are accompanied by a pastiche of images and video clips showing riots, fights, and vehicles on fire.

Such depictions have been a staple in PiS political messaging for years.

In 2015, PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński claimed refugees from the Middle East could bring diseases and parasites to Poland.

And more recently, in October, PiS asked loaded questions to Poles on migration in a referendum timed to coincide with the national election, which failed to garner enough votes to have meaning.

Among them was the question of whether one supports the "admission of thousands of illegal immigrants" under a "forced relocation mechanism imposed by European bureaucracy?"

Human Rights Watch, an NGO, described those referendum questions as both xenophobic and misleading given that the EU's asylum reform does not impose relocations.

Instead relocations, or the distribution of arriving asylum seekers on European soil, is one of several so-called solidarity options aimed at helping EU states cope with people wanting international protection.

The general election in Poland in mid-October has since seen PiS lose its grip on power after gains by Civic Platform and other smaller parties.

Although PiS remains the largest party with the most parliamentary seats, a coalition of parties with the Civic Platform is expected to dethrone it by the end of the year.

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