Poland’s former Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski says he has started a hunger strike as a “political prisoner”, a day after he was arrested and sent to prison on abuse of power charges.
Kaminski made the announcement on Wednesday, following his arrest along with his deputy, Maciej Wasik, inside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
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“I declare that I treat my conviction … as an act of political revenge,” Kaminski said in the statement, read by his former deputy Blazej Pobozy at a news conference in front of the prime minister’s office.
New Prime Minister Donald Tusk, of the Civic Platform party, has pledged to undo the policies of his predecessors – the government of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party – and punish those accused of wrongdoing during their time in power. Kaminski and Wasik are members of PiS.
“As a political prisoner, I started a hunger strike from the first day of my imprisonment,” Kaminski’s statement read.
Deputy Justice Minister Maria Ejchart responded to the strike by saying the two former officials are not political prisoners and any prisoner has the right to refuse to eat and drink if they so choose.
Police on Tuesday acted on a court order to take Kaminski and Wasik into custody, amid an ongoing dispute between the head of state and the new government.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Tuesday in front of the Presidential Palace in support of the PiS and in front of a police station where they were held.
Polish President Andrzej Duda, meanwhile, said on Wednesday he was deeply shaken by the arrests and promised he would work to free them.
Duda is closely aligned with PiS and has made clear that he will oppose Tusk’s agenda. Duda’s second and final term runs until mid-2025.
However, Duda called for calm and said he would act legally and in line with the constitution.
Tusk, a former European Council president, has said he plans to reposition Poland as a leader of the European Union and will remain a loyal ally of the United States and NATO, after eight years of of far-right nationalist rule.
He has also pledged to win full Western support for Ukraine in its war against Russia and mediate past hurdles with the EU.