A member of the European Parliament from the Law and Justice (PiS) party must apologise to the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) for his allegations about the involvement of the ODF in the laundering of money from Russia. This is another victory of the Foundation in the case of violation of personal rights against representatives of the ruling authorities.
“I, Dominik Tarczyński, apologise to Lyudmyla Kozlovska for violating her dignity and good name, as well as to the Open Dialogue Foundation in Warsaw (KRS:0000353754) for the damage to its reputation and good name, by spreading during my appearance on the Deutsche Welle program “Conflict Zone” of hurtful and untrue information about their involvement in laundering money coming from Russia“. This is the full text of the apology that MEP from the Law and Justice party Dominik Tarczyński must publish with his own signature on his Twitter account. The statement must appear continuously on his account for 60 days. The ruling by the District Court in Warsaw is not final.
The Open Dialogue Foundation and Lyudmyla Kozlovska sued Dominik Tarczyński three years ago. The case concerned the words of the politician in May 2019, who in a discussion on Deutsche Welle in English claimed that the co-founder of the Foundation, Kozlovska, was involved in laundering money coming from Russia.
Tarczyński’s statement was part of a massive campaign launched by the ruling authorities since 2017 against the Foundation, Kozlovska and Bartosz Kramek, the co-founder and chairman of the ODF’s Supervisory Board, in the private life — Kozlovska’s husband.
20 lawsuits on the facts of attacks on the Foundation
Kramek’s troubles were caused by the text he published during the protests in defence of free courts in July 2017. In his post Kramek considered, using the experience of the Ukrainian Maidan as an example, “how to stop the Law and Justice (PiS) party attack on the rule of law in Poland”.
Services subordinated to the Law and Justice party considered him a coup plotter, more control services were sent to the Foundation, and the pro-government media raced against the texts defaming the Open Dialogue Foundation.
The management of the Foundation counted a total of more than 1,500 articles discrediting them in the right-wing media. “Five years ago, overnight I became one of the main public enemies of this government. I do not know why the Law and Justice party concluded that I could threaten it,” Bartosz Kramek said in an interview with the newspaper “Wyborcza”.
A married couple filed 20 lawsuits against politicians and journalists for attacks on the ODF. They concern, among others, Witold Waszczykowski, Joachim Brudziński, Patryk Jaki, Krystyna Pawłowicz, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Ryszard Czarnecki, Szymon Szynkowski, Dominik Tarczyński, Tomasz Sakiewicz, Witold Gadowski and TVP, Polish Radio and Fratria – the publisher of the PiS related website wPolityce.pl and the weekly “Sieci”. In total, the activists demand almost PLN 1.7 million.
In response to ODF’s lawsuits, more and more politicians from the United Right are blocking access to their Twitter accounts.
Last week, deputy Minister of the Interior and deputy coordinator of secret services, Maciej Wąsik, lost a trial for violation of personal rights. He accused the Open Dialogue Foundation of connections with Russia, hybrid activities and money laundering, and the chairman of the ODF’s Supervisory Board Bartosz Kramek of calling for bloodshed. In a preliminary ruling, the District Court in Warsaw ordered the politician to apologise to the activists.
The Open Dialogue Foundation is now awaiting further court decisions. “These lawsuits are important for us but time-consuming and costly. The scale of the attack on us was so great that we had no choice but to sue the next defamers. However, we must not neglect the regular activities of the Foundation,” says Kramek.
The attacks on the ODF have led to several young employees resigning from the Foundation, fearing that such a record on their CVs would harm their future careers. Some donors also withdrew their funding. “They explained that there were publications that put us in a bad light, so for reasons of caution they preferred to withdraw their funds, although they didn’t believe the statements. That is why we are not backing down from the lawsuits, although we know that the publicity of reports that someone should apologise to us is absolutely incomparable to the way the attacks on us were covered a few years ago,” the activist says.
A dangerous deal according to TVP
In an interview with “Wyborcza”, Bartosz Kramek lists in one breath only some of the allegations made against him and his associates in recent years by persons associated with the pro-government camp.
“My wife is Ukrainian and, to make matters worse, she is from Crimean Sevastopol and once met George Soros, who, according to the Law and Justice Party, was behind the protests in defence of democracy in Poland. Andrzej Wielowieyski is a member of the Foundation’s Supervisory Board, and beyond that, we have several photos with Adam Michnik and a long-standing acquaintance with many politicians of the current opposition. In 2014, i.e. under the Civic Platform government, after verification by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) and military counter-intelligence, we were given a licence to supply helmets and bulletproof vests to soldiers and journalists in Ukraine, which was distorted into information that we were trading in armaments, and then that we were preparing weapons for “Maidan in Poland”. In addition, we are lobbying against Law and Justice in Europe — our meetings with EU commissioners in charge of the rule of law were met with fury. TVP presented all this as a dangerous deal of which we are a central part,” he says.
Added to this are the events of 2021.
Last June, Bartosz Kramek was detained by the ABW as a suspect on charges of false statements regarding the provision of consulting services and money laundering amounting to PLN 5.3 million. He was released on bail after less than a month. “Since then, nothing has happened in my proceedings. To date, no indictment has been presented,” says the activist. “However, the prosecutor supervising the investigation, Jerzy Ziarkiewicz, a trustee of Zbigniew Ziobro, who also dealt with, among others, the case of Roman Giertych, first decided that after leaving custody I could not leave the country, and then added the obligation to report to the police station in Warsaw on a daily basis,” Kramek reports. Both decisions were overturned by the court after several months.
The decision on police surveillance was made shortly after Kramek was among a group of activists who broke through the barbed wire stretching across Poland’s border with Belarus last August in a civil protest against the inhuman treatment of migrants. “Presumably, this was done in order to complicate my further trips to the border,” Kramek said.
Today, the Open Dialogue Foundation focuses its activities on helping Ukraine and supporting war refugees in Poland. It sends humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including helmets, night vision devices and vehicles to evacuate the wounded from the front line. It runs a refugee aid point at the Eastern Railway Station in Warsaw and has opened three houses for single mothers refugees. As of the end of July, the Foundation has provided assistance worth over PLN 20 million. “In addition, in the shadow of war, we continue to do the same, namely to support the struggle for the rule of law and democracy in Poland. A separate area is the protection of those persecuted for political reasons in countries such as Kazakhstan or, more recently, Uzbekistan,” adds Kramek.
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- Salon24: Europoseł PiS musi przeprosić Fundację Otwarty Dialog. Jest wyrok sądu [Court judgment: PiS MEP must apologise to the Open Dialogue Foundation] (09.08.2022)