The Internal Security Agency detained the Chair of the Board of the Open Dialogue Foundation on charges formerly levelled by the clan of a corrupt Moldovan oligarch. Bartosz Kramek was arrested based on a warrant issued by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin.
Since 2017, the Law and Justice government has been calling Bartosz Kramek a Russian spy*, an enemy of the people*, a coup-monger*, an embezzler* (select as appropriate). The Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) is a thorn in the side of those in power, and Bartosz Kramek, together with his Ukrainian wife, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, ODF President, have been subjected to harassment for nearly four years.
ODF, in accordance with its Articles of Association, is dedicated to defending the rule of law and democratic standards in post-Soviet countries. First in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Moldova, and for the last few years, also in Poland. Apart from Kramek, other members of the ODF Board are Michał Boni, Andrzej Wielowieyski and Jacek Szymanderski.
While Poland bans, Europe permits
Bartosz Kramek, a participant in street protests against constitutional abuses and assaults on the judiciary, got properly into trouble with the Law and Justice Party after posting on FB in 2017 his message entitled “Let the state stop: Let’s switch off the government”. He wrote about step-by-step measures to be taken by civil society in order to stop the Law and Justice’s assault on the rule of law in Poland and suggested adopting solutions familiar from Ukraine’s Euromaidan in 2014.
As a result, the big guns were brought out against ODF, Kramek and Kozlovska. Tax audits were imposed on them, money flows were investigated. Someone even attempted to take over the Foundation by appointing a trustee to replace the rightful management. However, the courts did not give permission for this to go ahead.
In 2018, the Polish authorities deemed Ludmyla Kozlovska persona non grata across the European Union, and she was entered into the SIS system (i.e. the list of undesirables in the Schengen area) and expelled to Kyiv. It soon turned out that the Polish government did not have any arguments to support their claim that Kozlovska was a threat to the EU, and they failed to convince other European countries that they too should ban her entry into their territories. Meanwhile, Kozlovska moved to Brussels and travelled across the EU states, but she was unable to visit her husband in Poland because the barrier at the border remained steadfastly in her way. Eventually, Bartosz Kramek sold his Warsaw flat and moved to Brussels as well. However, he continued to visit Poland on a regular basis, including to take part in protests against the actions of the Law and Justice administration.
Kramek taken into custody
Recently, he has been appearing in his home country more often, following the launch of civil and criminal lawsuits brought by ODF against a number of individuals and institutions, who have been charged with disseminating false information about the foundation and slandering the reputation of Kramek and his wife. The lawsuits concerned, among others, TVP, Polish Radio, right-wing journalists and politicians (such as Witold Waszczykowski, Maciej Wąsik, and Krystyna Pawłowicz). Overall, ODF has brought twenty such lawsuits.
Two days ago, Kramek came from Brussels to appear at the trial in the case brought against Tomasz Sakiewicz, Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Polska, and at another in the case against Wojciech Biedroń, a journalist at Sieci and wPolityce.pl, just a day later. However, he was unable to attend the second trial, as on 23 June at 11.00 a.m., Internal Security Agency officers burst into his hotel room and took him away. He was brought in for interrogation and presented with charges of perjury as regards the services offered by his consulting company in favour of other entities, as well as charges of money laundering in the amount of PLN 5.3 million.
The next day, the court in Lublin held a hearing to deliberate on the arrest warrant. The public prosecutor demanded three months of temporary custody. The trial lasted from 2.00 p.m. to 9 p.m. but, due to multiple doubts, the court adjourned its decision until 25 June. Today at 9 a.m., conditional custody was ordered in Kramek’s case. The court set PLN 300,000 bail and, until such amount is paid, the suspect is to remain in custody. According to attorney Radosław Baszuk, one of the reasons why this measure was applied was that he had no permanent address in Poland. Custody is always applied in such circumstances. But while setting the bail, the court also found that the suspect’s attitude and his testimony worked in his favour. Both the prosecutor and Kramek’s defence counsels announced that they would appeal against the decision.
What does oligarch Plahotniuc have in common with Law and Justice?
The charges presented appear to be the same as those heard in 2018 from Moldova. At that time, allegations were made by the Investigative Committee of the Moldovan Parliament, fully controlled by the oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. According to the Committee’s report, the Open Dialogue Foundation allegedly interfered with internal affairs of the state and participated in money laundering.
ODF used to cooperate closely with Maia Sandu and other local opposition figures. Meanwhile, the oligarch made efforts to delegitimise opposition. He collaborated with the Polish authorities in their attempts to discredit ODF, Kozlovska and Kramek. However, in 2019, he nevertheless lost the election and the aforementioned Sandu, who was backed by the EU, the US and even by Russia, was appointed prime minister. Plahotniuc fled to Turkey as he faced allegations of involvement in massive corruption.
The very timing of Bartosz Kramek’s arrest and prosecution is also perplexing. It looks as if someone is trying to hinder or even prevent him from pursuing legal cases against slanderers representing the ruling political elite. The preventive attack on Kramek was carried out just now, even though the hunt for him and his wife had already been underway for several years. The hunting dogs had been set loose, guns had been drawn, so a prey was needed. Having failed to get Lyudmyla Kozlowska, they tried their luck with her husband.
Bartosz Kramek’s guilt or innocence will be determined by the court, but it is hard to resist the impression that, at least in view of the Law and Justice Party, revenge has been taken. The vengeful authorities, who, unlike God never forgive sins, are probably feeling satisfied.