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Thousands Protest Judicial Reforms in Poland

  • VOA News

Thousands of anti-government protesters with lit candles gather in front of the Supreme Court in a continuation of protest in Warsaw, Poland, July 16, 2017.

Thousands of people rallied in Warsaw and other cities Sunday to oppose the Polish government's controversial new court reforms and future plans to change the Supreme Court, which opponents see as a threat to judicial independence.

Chanting "we will defend democracy" and waving EU and Polish flags, around 4,500 protesters attended demonstrations in the Polish capital, according to police. Smaller rallies were held in other cities across the country.

The new legislation passed last week has drawn criticism from the European Union, which also said it violates judicial independence.

It gives lawmakers a dominant role in appointing judges, a move that opposition parties and rights groups said would make jurists subject to political influence.

Another draft law requires that all current Supreme Court judges retire and be replaced with new appointees selected by the justice minister, and the work of the court reorganized.

A number of experts and judges agree that Polish justice system and particularly the courts need reforms, but they say the proposals of Law and Justice Party are going in the wrong direction.

Sunday's demonstrations were the latest in a string of anti-government protests since the conservative and populist Law and Justice Party took office in 2015.

Poland is a relatively new democracy, having overthrown communist rule in 1989 and joined the EU in 2004.

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