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Polish President Pardons Government Minister Sentenced for Crime

Mariusz Kaminski arrives at a meeting of senior party officials at the party headquarters in Warsaw, Poland, Nove. 3, 2015. President Andrzej Duda has pardoned a former head of the country's anti-corruption agency who was found guilty of abuse of power, a gesture slammed by the opposition as politically motivated.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has pardoned a minister in the country's new conservative government who was convicted of abuse of power as head of the anti-corruption body in 2007.

Duda pardoned Mariusz Kaminski, the coordinator of special services in the new government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, responsible for overseeing police and intelligence agencies.

The pardon was announced late Tuesday. It highlights the strong cooperation between Law and Justice, the country's ruling right-wing party, and Duda, who won the presidency on the party's ticket. It drew strong criticism from law experts and politicians, who called it a premature step and a “dangerous precedent.”

Duda argued on Wednesday that it was his intention to free the independent courts from having to rule in this politically charged case.

Kaminski was the head of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau when Law and Justice previously ran the government, from 2005-2007. Earlier this year he was sentenced to three years in prison. The court found him guilty of entrapment targeting the Agriculture Ministry, eavesdropping and fabricating documents in 2007, as head of the anti-corruption body. The scandal led to the resignation of the agriculture minister.

Kaminski has appealed the ruling, which means that the pardon comes before the case is properly closed in court, which sets a precedent. The pardon would void the appellate verdict, if one is made.

A former minister and opposition leader Tomasz Siemoniak said it is a “very bad decision” that offered political rather than legal innocence.

A former justice minister, Zbigniew Cwiakalski, said it was the first time a president had not waited for a court's final judgment before issuing a pardon.

Law and Justice won a parliamentary majority in an election last month and formed a conservative government that was sworn in by the president earlier this week. On Wednesday Szydlo is set to deliver a major policy speech to the parliament, where her party holds a majority.

Her speech is expected to largely focus on public security and migrants, in reaction to last week's terror attacks in Paris. Szydlo's Cabinet is expected to easily win the vote of confidence, planned late in the day.