Former Polish interior minister sentenced to 2 years in prison -PAP

WARSAW (Reuters) – Former Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and his deputy from the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party were sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday for abuse of power in previous posts, PAP news agency reported.

In 2015, weeks after PiS came to power, President Andrzej Duda issued a pardon to Kaminski who had been found guilty of abuse of power while serving as head of the anti-corruption agency. The pardon allowed him to become a minister.

Lawyers questioned whether Duda could have pardoned Kaminski before a court issued a final ruling in his case, and opposition politicians have said his decision was political.

The Constitutional Tribunal, which critics say was politicised under PiS, ruled in June the president was within his rights to pardon him, saving the PiS government from a potentially damaging dismissal in an election year.

Poland’s Supreme Court ruled days later that the abuse of power case should be reopened.

On Wednesday, a Warsaw appeals court sentenced Kaminski and Maciej Wasik, his former deputy at the interior ministry, to two years in prison and two other officials of the anticorruption office to one year, PAP news agency reported.

The verdict is final and means Kaminski, seen as close to PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and Wasik will probably lose their parliamentary mandates. PiS lost power to an alliance of pro-European parties after Oct. 15 elections.

The was no immediate sign that Kaminski or Wasik were set to be imprisoned, with both men rejecting the appeals court’s decision.

“This is a verdict that we do not acknowledge and there are no grounds for terminating our mandates,” Kaminski said at a press conference.

“We do not feel guilty or convicted, we were pardoned by Mr President,” Wasik added.

Critics said Kaminski and his associates had pursued corruption with excessive zeal when in office, using methods they said sometimes circumvented laws and also hounded innocent people. Kaminski argued that corruption was a blight on Polish democracy that had to be tackled thoroughly.

(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Toby Chopra)