The legal saga over the man who burned an effigy of a Jew during an anti-islamification protest in November 2015 has taken another twist.
For those new to the story, the case regards Piotr Rybak, an important figure in the Wroclaw division of the ultra right-wing group ONR. He was charged in 2015 under article 256 paragraph 1 of the criminal code, which relates to the public incitement of hatred based on national, ethnic, racial and religious differences.
During the protest at the centre of the case, which was organised by the National Radical Camp and All-Polish Youth, participants shouted out chants such as "Not Islamic, not secular, but Polish Catholic!", "Poland free from Islam" and "Islam out of the Polish party."
Later, an effigy of a Jewish man carrying an EU flag was set ablaze at the demonstration. Why? Allegedly because some of the protesters believe in a conspiracy that a Zionist plot has been hatched to send refugees to Europe as part of a plan for a greater Israel. It was also thought that the Jewish effigy was intended to represent the group's opposition to billionaire George Soros and the actions of 'European elites'.
After the manifestation many people, including Wroclaw President Rafal Dutkiewicz, filed a complaint to the city prosecutor. To aid with the investigation, Wroclaw magistrate also gave police a recording of the CCTV footage that captured the event.
Ahead of Rybak's sentencing last November, the defence pleaded for community service, however the judge considered that punishment to be insufficient – meaning Wroclaw's ONR figurehead was set to spend 10 months behind bars. However an appeal was lodged and in April the jail sentence was reduced to just 3 months.
The saga did not end there however, as the reduction in the jail term did not satisfy Rybak and his legal team. Back in June they launched another appeal against the decision and demanded the punishment be reduced to a 3 month period of electronic tagging.
The appeal was nonetheless rejected a month later, a decision that appeared to ensure Rybak would be behind bars for at least three months. The ONR figurehead's lawyer had other ideas though, and he managed to find a legal route to lauch another appeal against the sentencing.
According to Gazeta Wyborcza, this appeal has now proven to be successful. At a public hearing earlier today, appeals court judge Grzegorz Kaper accepted Rybak's appeal. According to Rybak's lawyer, the appeals court did so on the grounds that "the facts used in the case could not be relied upon".
As a result of the successful appeal, the case will now go to the District Court. Consequently, many people believe that it is now a foregone conclusion that Rybak will avoid jail time.
As many of our readers will be aware, the District Court is now completely controlled by the PiS Government. This is due to the fact the Government's bill on the district courts was the one that President Duda did not veto following the recent protests. Given PiS' desire to be sympathetic towards the 'patriotic' community, it would not be over the top to suggest that the judge in the case could be obliged to hand out a light punishment.
This fact is well known by Piotr Rybak, as well as his good friend, nationalist ex-priest Jacek Międlar. Earlier today Międlar praised the Government's legislation, using PiS' popular election slogan "good change":
"I'm here with my friend Piotr Rybak and I am pleased with the good change in our justice system introduced by Patryk Jaki and Zbigniew Ziobro [the deputy Justice Minister and the Justice Minister].
In the event that the District Court's verdict does not satisfy Piotr Rybak's legal team, they already have plan B and C up their sleeve. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, Rybak's lawyer has written to President Duda to request a pardon and also filed a cassation appeal with the Supreme Court.