Defense lawyers for some of the defendants in the high-profile corruption case of the so-called Sławomir Nowak’s groups want to exclude judge Iwona Szymańska from leading the trial. According to these lawyers, pressure can be exerted on the judge, eg to settle the case as quickly as possible.
The defenders want the judge to be excluded in the trial of Sławomir Nowak
The court in Warsaw held an organizational consultation on Tuesday in the case in which the former transport minister is accused of, among other things, accepting millions of bribes in exchange for facilitating the acquisition of road construction contracts in Ukraine. Sławomir Nowak and none of the other 14 defendants appeared in court. They were represented by a team of defenders. Thanks to the attitude of the lawyers, who unanimously opted for the transparency of the whole process, the media can participate in this case from the beginning.
In general, during the organizational consultations, the court determines the dates of the hearings, the order in which the work is to be performed and the requests are received. On Tuesday, however, the court did not set any dates. The reason was the request of lawyer Marta Lech, a defender of one of the defendants Grzegorz W. The lawyer requested that Judge Iwona Szymańska be excluded from the handling of this case, justifying, among other things, pressure to which the judge in this case can be subjected.
According to PAP, Judge Szymańska originally set the date of the organizational meeting for the end of March this year. However, following a letter from the appeals court, the judge’s superior instructed her in writing to “reschedule the pre-hearing immediately to no later than the end of January.” The superior also urged and advised the judge to hold hearings in this process at least once a month. As a result, Judge Szymańska brought forward this deadline by two months.
The PAP’s findings further indicate that in October 2022, the court received another letter from the vice president of the court in this case requesting monthly reports on the proceedings in this process.
According to the defense, the pressure on Judge Szymańska to deal with the case quickly and the request for trial records constitute undue pressure to justify the dismissal of this judge.
The judge is married to Konrad Szymański
Another reason for Szymańska’s removal from this case, according to the defenders, is her family ties. As the judge herself admitted on Tuesday, her husband is Konrad Szymański, a former European Union minister in the PiS government.
In the interest of justice and in the interest of this case, it is better to exclude the arbitrator, not so much because of the way the proceedings are conducted, but because of family relationships
– said lawyer Lech.
Defense lawyers also argued on Tuesday that it was impossible to pass the so-called impartiality test of the judge due to the fact that the provisions regarding this test came into effect after the charges were filed in the case. The lawyers also pointed out that some of the defendants in this case had not received notice of the charges. These people are in Ukraine. According to lawyers, this raises doubts as to whether the trial can even begin.
Prosecutor Jan Drelewski did not agree to the defense’s request. According to him, the arguments for excluding the court are misplaced.
Disqualification of a judge can occur when there are grounds for his impartiality
In the end, the start date of the trial has not been set for Tuesday and the request for the sole judge must be immediately heard by another judge of the capital’s district court.
Nowak charged with 17 crimes
In December 2021, the Minister of Transport was charged with committing 17 criminal offences, including founding and leading an international organized crime group involved in corruption crimes and influence peddling.
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According to the prosecutor’s office, Nowak, Ukrawtodor, as the head of the State Motor Road Service, had to demand and accept financial benefits and promises of such benefits in the amount of more than PLN 6.1 million. In return, he would assist certain entities in procedures for the award and implementation of public contracts related to the renovation of roads in Ukraine.
The former minister was also accused of money laundering. It is about PLN 8 million. The allegation also relates to Nowak’s time as head of Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s political cabinet and Minister of Transport and Maritime Economy. According to the investigating politicians, he would receive at least 320,000. PLN makes bribes in exchange for help in obtaining lucrative positions and contracts in state-owned companies. He is also accused of taking PLN 760,000 bribe for organizing a meeting of representatives of the development company with the authorities of the city of Gdańsk.
Nowak is responsible in this process free of charge. He was detained for nine months from July 2020 to April 2021. He was released after paying bail of PLN 1 million.
In addition to Sławomir Nowak, 14 more people will be on the dock in this trial, including three citizens of Ukraine and one citizen of Turkey. The charges against them include participation in an organized crime group, giving financial benefits, laundering money from committing crimes, expressing influence and confirming untruths.
Emma Matthew is a political analyst for “Social Bites”. With a keen understanding of the inner workings of government and a passion for politics, she provides insightful and informative coverage of the latest political developments.