19 people came to the District Court in Lublin to post PLN 300 thousand bail for Bartosz Kramek. – As I was leaving the jail, a prison guard wished me “good luck fighting the regime”.
— I am grateful to all those who vouched for me, verbally and financially. Thank you and let’s keep fighting. I see my release as the prosecution’s failure, yet these three weeks were tough. I’ve expected for several years that I might get arrested, but when it actually happens, it comes as a surprise anyway. Being free, I will now defend my good name and the Foundation’s reputation, said Bartosz Kramek of the Open Dialogue Foundation, leaving the detention centre in Lublin on 15 July, shortly after 4 p.m. His parents, friends and activists were waiting for him at the gate. About 20 people in total. – As I was leaving the jail, a prison guard wished me “good luck fighting the regime”. Such gestures are really empowering.
The day before, 19 people came to the District Court in Lublin to post PLN 300 thousand bail for Bartosz Kramek. Each of them contributed as much as they could and drove hundreds of kilometres as it was required to pay in person. These were people whose paths might otherwise never have crossed: a former CEO of a large company, a pensioner, an ailing mother of a disabled child, a van dealer…
And each of the 19 people had a personal reason for coming to Lublin.
Paweł Wrabec, a company owner and member of Obywatele RP movement: — Because I thought it was a good investment in the future of my children who will live in this country. Popular slogans at the demonstrations read: “You’ll never walk alone” and “Solidarity is our weapon”. Today is the moment of truth: will words be followed by actions?
Izabela Witkowska, a retired Polish teacher and economist: — Because I was arrested myself, so I know what it means. It was back in 1984, for underground activity in Solidarność Walcząca. My son was three years old when I was detained. I was separated from him and he had to stay with his grandparents. The communist prosecutor deliberately sent me to the other end of Poland, near the German border, to a prison where there were inmates with children. It was meant to show me what I was risking if I refused to testify. I could have gotten eight years. Finally, I was released under the amnesty law on the occasion of a public holiday on 22 July, and after three months I could return to my child. I don’t know Bartek personally, but it went without saying that I had to contribute. I would have given the full amount for bail if only I could afford that.
Tomasz Sarosiek, doctor, member of the Homokomando group: — Because I value Bartek. I met him on 20 January, that fateful day when, during a demonstration, the police knocked him down on the sidewalk face first, sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, and then took him to jail in Wilcza Street. I was also gassed that day. I managed to return home and take a shower when my friends called to say that we were going to Wilcza Street to demonstrate solidarity with Kramek. They released him at 3 a.m. We’ve been in touch ever since. Bartek took pictures of himself with rainbow symbols whenever he was in Poland, he took part in Homokomando’s sports trainings, even though he is not gay himself. He initiated the creation of the Homokomando branch in Brussels. It gathers people who express solidarity with the Polish LGBT community.
Ana Ursachi, a lawyer from Moldova, working in Brussels who has donated 155 thousand zlotys: — Because she came here not only in her own name, but on behalf of many Moldovans to whom the Open Dialogue Foundation has provided real help. Bartek Kramek and his wife Lyudmyla Kozlovska made the world aware of the tortured political prisoners in Moldova during the dictatorship, which saved the lives of real people.
Unspecified invoices. Unknown recipients
The detention order issued by the district court for Lublin-Zachód reads: it is suspected that the accused “in the period from 10 August 2012 to 28 February 2016. (…) in his capacity as the President of the Management Board and owner of all shares of Silk Road Biuro Analiz i Informacji sp. z o.o. (…) in order to achieve financial benefit (…), making a regular source of income from criminal activity, in 59 VAT invoices issued to foreign entrepreneurs (…) repeatedly made false statements on provision of consultancy services, IT services and VOIP services by the company for a total amount of no less than PLN 5,379,274, while in reality the company had not provided any services to these contractors (…), and then transferred the funds to the bank accounts of other entities (…), including to the Open Dialogue Foundation”.
Attorney Radosław Baszuk, one of Kramek’s three defence lawyers, says: The detention order does not specify any references of invoices to be challenged. I perceive this as a significant impediment to the right of defence. Are we supposed to guess what invoices might be concerned? Nor was it specified where my client would have deposited the funds allegedly obtained from the crime – ‘to the bank accounts of other entities, including the Open Dialogue Foundation’ – what are those ‘other entities’? You are asking why the case of Bartosz Kramek was transferred to the prosecutor’s office in Lublin. I don’t know. Maybe it was hoped that there was someone who would handle the case properly, along the lines that the government would expect? My client claims that absolutely all paid consulting assignments were genuinely completed by his company. But let’s assume for a moment that this was not the case, that some of the work was not done. The question is: how would it harm the Polish state if Kramek’s company failed to meet its obligations to other foreign companies? In addition, it is beyond question that my client duly paid taxes on all invoices. What would be the serious harm to Poland that would require my client to be arrested?
Why him? Why now?
Why was it Bartosz Kramek who became, as the people waiting for him outside the court put it, “Poland’s first political prisoner”? Why does the arrest come now?
Kajetan Wróblewski, a social activist involved in Kramek’s defence, says: We, the so-called street opposition, became aware of Bartek’s name when the right wing brought unusually heavy guns against him in response to a manifesto he wrote on Facebook: ‘Let the state stop: let’s switch the government off!’ in 2016 [in 2017 – ed.] Before that, Bartek was just one of many people who regularly appeared at protests in defence of the courts, not at all widely recognized in the environment. A young guy, coming from the provinces, without extensive connections in Warsaw. Frankly speaking, probably none of us would bother to read this manifesto, because we all demonstrated, wrote slogans, published posts and appeals. And suddenly Bartek was attacked on an unbelievable scale. The Foundation counted over 1,500 articles in right-wing media slandering Kramek and his wife Lyudmyla Kozlovska. Until then, the couple was associated mainly with pro-democratic activities in post-Soviet countries: Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan.
Attorney Maciej Lach, representing Bartosz Kramek and Lyudmyla Kozlovska in 20 cases, civil and criminal, in which they are suing right-wing politicians and journalists for slander and infringement of moral rights, says: Kramek’s manifesto on Facebook – this is when the campaign started. What was in it that would make the right wing so furious? Kramek calls for civil disobedience in order to defend democracy in Poland, but let me emphasize that the measures he proposes are nothing new. Let’s review them one by one. Kramek proposes to stop paying taxes under the slogan “I don’t pay PiS” [the Law and Justice party]. None other than father Tadeusz Rydzyk had previously called for not paying taxes when in 2012 the National Broadcasting Council refused to grant a license to his television channel, Trwam.
Kramek advocates setting up tent cities? After all, during the PO [Civic Platform party] government those were created as well.
Kramek calls for demonstrations outside the politicians’ homes? And didn’t the Law and Justice activists shout outside the home of Prime Minister Donald Tusk, demanding the “truth about the Smolensk crash”?
The rightists’ accusation that Kramek is calling for a bloody Polish Maidan is completely wrong as in the manifesto he repeatedly stresses that everything should be done to maintain the peaceful nature of the protests. It is hard to find an answer as to what Kramek has done to infuriate the right wing to that extent. Or maybe it’s the fact that he is a well-educated man married to a well-educated woman. They speak foreign languages, they find their way in European institutions, they are heard in the Bundestag or in the European Parliament. Bartosz Kramek and Lyudmyla Kozlovska are a thorn in their side. It’s no secret either that they can arouse jealousy also among Polish NGOs. Being young people “from nowhere” they manage to win EU grants and conduct very powerful and effective actions, in a corporate style, which distinguishes them on the Polish NGO market.
Indeed, the security service showed interest in them since long ago
“The security service showed interest in the Open Dialogue Foundation already under the Civic Platform government, so maybe there is something into that after all” — this opinion drags behind the Foundation like a tail.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska: — Indeed, our contact with the Internal Security Agency (ABW) did commence under the Civic Platform government – at my initiative. Let me explain. In 2012, a Kazakh national wrote to me begging for help. He claimed that he had been tortured. As usual in such cases, I met him at the airport in Warsaw. At first glance, he surprised me. He did not look like someone who would have been tortured in prison. He showed me a list of Kazakh oppositionists and said he needed to get in touch with them. He offered me a million dollars if I helped him. I was terrified. I ran out of the airport and asked my husband to immediately report this incident to ABW. Nobody would talk to me there because I am not a Polish citizen. Bartek did it and it was our first contact with the Polish security service.
A year later, in 2014, our foundation was preparing a delivery of bulletproof vests for the Ukrainian Maidan. We were the only NGO in the European Union to organize this kind of aid. The Internal Security Agency did stop our vests shipment for formal reasons, but the Polish state was never against it. We were advised what specific formalities we needed to fulfil, and we received a license from the Polish government to trade “defensive weapons”. The equipment was distributed to those in need. At that time we were aware that the services were scrutinizing us in every way. Apparently there were no concerns as we would definitely not have received any license if there had been any doubts about us.
Why does the arrest come now?
Attorney Radosław Baszuk, says: Was Bartosz Kramek arrested to make it harder for him to pursue those 20 cases against right-wing politicians and journalists? Frankly speaking, I don’t believe in that. Such things don’t happen in our country, too many prominent figures from the headlines are suing or get sued for defamation. Is the date of the arrest accidental? I also doubt it.
Not only attorney Baszuk, but none of the other lawyers involved in the case will officially risk any hypothesis about the timing of the arrest. Possible explanations are unverifiable.
Off the record, however, two of the lawyers share the following supposition: You may remember those three Polish women that the Polish government managed to rescue from Belarusian custody and bring safely to the country. The government showed its effectiveness then, didn’t it? Do you remember who did Poland a favour and negotiated with Lukashenko to release these women? This name appeared in the Polish media. Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator of Kazakhstan. Why would he want to help us? Because he cares so much about human rights? Or maybe he wanted something in return? Something like help in getting the Open Dialogue Foundation off his back. The foundation which in Moldova effectively contributed to the overthrow of the dictatorship, so it poses a real threat to him as well.
The deal ‘Kramek for the three Polish women’ is more than a presumption of Polish lawyers. Kozlovska claims that a trusted source at a Kazakh ministry confirmed that there was such an arrangement between the services.
Attorney Baszuk adds: They came for Bartosz Kramek at 10 a.m. in the hotel where he was staying in Warsaw. Since the expulsion of Lyudmyla Kozlovska from Poland, the couple has lived in Brussels, but Kramek spent a lot of time in Warsaw because of the 20 lawsuits the foundation had filed.
As a reminder, in August 2018, Kozlovska learned that she was banned from the Schengen area because the ABW deemed her a “threat to state security.” Later, Belgium granted her the right to stay, disputing the allegations of the Polish security agency. The Moldovan prosecutor’s office, shortly after the country restored democratic order in 2019, withdrew its charges against Kozlovska. Warsaw’s Provincial Administrative Court on 29 January 2021 once again overturned the decision to expel her, stating the evidence by the ABW was “too vague”, and referred the matter for reconsideration by the provincial governor and the Office for Foreigners, but the case is still pending there.
Attorney Maciej Lach says: Kramek and Kozlovska have consistently gone forward. They were effective not only in defending Moldovan and Kazakh oppositionists, not only in helping Ukraine; they also won against harassment by the Polish state. Poland expelled Kozlovska from Schengen, and she was immediately accepted in the Bundestag and EU institutions. Only now, with her husband’s detention, has it been achieved that Kozlovska is no longer laughing in the evil’s face.
Sex tapes, Mossad, passports, Soros and Russian security services
The list of accusations made against the Open Dialogue Foundation by right-wing politicians (among others Krystyna Pawłowicz, Witold Waszczykowski, Joachim Brudziński, Patryk Jaki) and right-wing media (TVP, Polskie Radio, wPolityce, Sieci) is really impressive. The Krameks supposedly cooperated with Russian intelligence, Mossad and Soros at the same time. Kozlovska allegedly used a Russian passport and had sex in front of the camera with a Kazakh oligarch, Mukhtar Ablyazov, or with him and one other man. And all that was supposedly sponsored by Moldovan and Kazakh oligarchs. An important source cited by the right-wing media is an article by the British “Sunday Times”. The editors have long since disclaimed responsibility for the text, admitting that it was written by freelancers loosely collaborating with the daily, whose revelations were not verified by the editors.
Attorney Lach says: Moldovan television once claimed that a high official of the Moldovan security service, Alexandru Balan, had come to Poland in order to hand over evidence of the criminal activity of the Open Dialogue Foundation to their Polish counterpart. Vladimir Plahotniuc, the face of the Moldovan regime, was said to be behind it.
Ana Ursachi says: Plahotniucis a gangster dealing with prostitution and arms trade, who at one time simply bought the Democratic Party of Moldova (however it may sound) and became a politician. Before the system changed in our country, Plahotniuc managed to steal a billion dollars from the state budget (15 percent of Moldova’s GDP!) and fled to Northern Cyprus. Should he be a reliable source for Polish intelligence services, journalists and media?
But the massive attack is having a serious effect: the Krameks’ reputation suffers as many think “maybe there is something to it after all”.
Attorney Lach adds: Even some of the liberal Polish media prefer to treat Kramek’s case “with caution” i.e. choose to remain silent. Who has taken the trouble to check the facts? And who will “just in case” refrain from raising the alarm about the arrest of an innocent man? Meanwhile, the regimes support each other. Moldovan “evidence of guilt” will gladly be confirmed by Kazakh services, or Kazakh “evidence” will be corroborated by the Russian security service.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska admits: After my husband’s arrest, I cried for a few days, but I pulled myself together and took action. Step by step. Some people reproach me for my business-like approach. Yes, I know how to write an e-mail correctly, I can use messaging apps and social networks, I have contacts in the EU institutions. I won’t rest until Bartek is released and then we will keep on pursuing our foundation’s goals, that is to contribute to the adoption of democratic standards in the post-Soviet territory.
Bartek Kramek’s parents, Maria and Henryk, stand outside the court for the second day. They were there on Wednesday, when the bail was paid, and they are here on Thursday, when the detention hearing is taking place.
Maria Kramek says: I always told him that he puts himself at risk. I’d rather my son had a quiet life. But I can’t forbid him.
Henryk Kramek adds: It means a lot to us that we are not standing here alone. I am proud that my son has so many friends.
Lyudmyla Kozlovska says: “So she’s dating another one now?” — This is how Bartek simply laughed it off when a “journalist” from Kazakhstan called him, asking for a comment on another version of a sex tape, allegedly with my participation. The mere fact that such fabricated videos exist is not a problem for us. But unfortunately, we cannot laugh at it. We know very well that in the East, sex tapes are a clear signal, a serious warning: your safety is at risk.
Are we thinking of giving up our activity as a result? We are not. This is what we are. Whenever one of us says: “Why don’t we have a break?”, the other replies: “Yes, absolutely. I just have to finish this report and then take care of those e-mails”.
Photo: Dawid Żuchowicz / Agencja Gazeta