The court has issued an arrest warrant for Bartosz Kramek from the Open Dialogue Foundation, which is secured by a bail of PLN 300,000. According to the prosecutor’s office, Kramek is to be charged with providing false representations concerning the provision of services worth PLN 5.3 million. Both Kramek, his wife and the ODF deny such accusations and consider them part of a “political war waged against all NGOs regarded by the authorities as undesirable”. Mr Kramek and his attorneys had only 1.5 hours to familiarise themselves with 40 volumes of the case dossier before the arrest session.
- According to Lyudmyla Kozlovska, last Wednesday at 1:25 pm the court received an arrest warrant issued by the prosecutor, and the arrest session was scheduled for 2:00 pm.
- Lyudmyla Kozlovska told us that at that moment she was not sure whether she would manage to collect the required bail amount, as it was “really enormous” for her and her husband.
- The court resolved that “the accused may attempt to escape and fail to appear upon the prosecutor’s demand,” wrote Karol Blajerski, the spokesman at the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin.
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The District Court for Lublin-Zachód issued a 3-month arrest warrant for Bartosz Kramek. The Member of ODF Board, married to the Foundation’s President, Lyudmyla Kozlovska, was detained in Warsaw on Wednesday morning by the Internal Security Agency at the demand of the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin and immediately transferred to Lublin.
Later that day, the Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin issued an extensive statement to announce that “Bartosz K. will be presented with charges of providing false representations regarding provision of consulting services documented by 46 VAT invoices issued for the benefit of 11 international entrepreneurs in the total amount of ca. PLN 5.3 million, and concealing the illegal origin of such financial resources by transferring them in favour of, for example, the Open Dialogue Foundation and other entities.”
Lyudmyla Kozlovska told us that the court received the prosecutor’s arrest warrant on Thursday at 1:25 pm, and the arrest session was scheduled for 2.00 pm on the same day. According to the public prosecutor’s office, the case dossier is composed of 40 volumes.
“It is doubtful whether 40 volumes of case files could be thoroughly analysed within such a short period of time. Such a size of documentation has been repeatedly mentioned by the mass media controlled by the ruling party. At the moment, we have no access to all case documentation and the lawyers are virtually unable to prepare the defence. This is a clear violation of the fundamental right of access to the case dossier in order to guarantee the possibility of defence and fair trial,” said Lyudmyla Kozlovska, commenting on the quick scheduling of the court session.
When we asked Karol Blajerski, the spokesman for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin about this short timing, he explained that the court had time to acquaint itself with the case dossier from receipt of the prosecutor’s arrest warrant until the issuance of its decision (which occurred on Friday morning).
“They are desperate in their strivings to arrest Bartek as soon as possible,” said Kozlovska last Thursday. “Due to the enormous speed of the process, we are not sure whether our lawyer travelling from Warsaw will even manage to join the court trial on time.”
Finally, at the request of an attorney for the defence from Lublin, the court agreed to postpone the trial for one and a half hours in order to enable the Open Dialogue’s attorney to reach the venue.
According to Lyudmyla Kozlovska, who is remaining in contact with the lawyers working on the case, her husband and attorney from Lublin were only given one and a half hours to familiarise themselves with the case files.
After Kramek’s attorney arrived, a long-term court session commenced and the public prosecutor demanded the issuance of a three-month arrest warrant for Mr Kramek. Bartosz Kramek provided extensive explanations and refused to plead guilty. His defenders requested the dismissal of the prosecutor’s demand for an arrest warrant. At 9:15 pm, Bożena Dzimira-Rzepkowska, Presiding Judge, interrupted the session and announced that the decision would be issued the next morning.
Three-month arrest and the prosecutor’s objection
On Friday morning, the judge issued a three-month arrest warrant for Bartosz Kramek, which may be avoided if bail of PLN 300,000 is paid no later than on 8 July.
In her initial comments on the bail amount, Ms Kozlovska told us that she had no idea whether she would manage to collect it, as it was “exorbitant”, both for her and her husband.
In his statement, the Spokesman for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin, Karol Blajerski, informed us that the prosecutor objected to a conditional arrest warrant issued by the court, which meant that the prosecutor demanded the issuing of an unconditional arrest warrant.
“The court agreed with the prosecutor’s claims that there was a high probability that Bartosz K. was guilty of the alleged offences. Moreover, the court also shared the prosecutor’s doubts presented in the request for temporary detention that, walking free, the suspect may interfere with the proceedings by tampering with evidence. The court also concluded that the suspect may attempt to flee and fail to appear when summoned by the prosecutor.” wrote Mr Blajerski.
Bartosz Kramek will remain in custody at least until the prosecutor’s appeal is considered by the court.
“Sadly, it needs be remarked that the Polish courts, prosecutor’s offices and special services have become tools enabling quick retaliation against undesirable activists. We will appeal against this decision and demand that Bartek be released from custody. The court’s presumption that Bartek might anyhow shrink from his responsibility, or interfere with the investigation, can be easily rebutted,” said Lyudmyla Kozlovska in commenting on the court’s decision.
Both herself and the ODF assert that “the claims towards Bartosz Kramek and the ODF are absurd and unfounded and constitute part of the political struggle against NGOs considered undesirable by the authorities”.
The Government vs. the Open Dialogue Foundation
The Polish authorities have been at odds with the ODF since 2017, when Kramek posted his statement: “Let the state stand: Let’s switch off the government!” on FB. He pointed to the experience of Euromaidan as a “way to counteract the Law and Justice’s assault on the rule of law in Poland”.
This publication provoked a series of assaults at the Foundation on the part of Polish authorities, including, among others, a number of customs and tax audits, and attempts to appoint an external controller and deprive ODF of its EU accreditation in Brussels. None of these attempts has proven successful.
In August 2018, Poland expelled Lyudmyla Kozlovska, ODF President and Ukrainian citizen from its territory. In March this year, the decision was quashed by the Voivodship Administrative Court. However, for almost three years, the ODF President has been denied entry into the territory of Poland, even though the ban has been lifted by all EU Member States.
The Open Dialogue Foundation is committed to defending human rights in the former Eastern Bloc countries. The Foundation has been advocating for many famous dissidents, including Oleg Sencov, a Ukrainian film director who was imprisoned by the Russians. “So it hurts us really badly that the Polish authorities are asking Russia for legal assistance in our case. Neither the Foundation, nor Bartek’s company have been involved in any businesses in Russia. The only ‘business’ pursued by us is the defence of human rights,” Ms Kozlovska explained to Onet.