© Agencja Gazeta / Wojciech Nekanda Trepka

Official: Man Who Burned Jewish Effigy Avoids Prison

The legal saga over the burning of a Jewish effigy during an anti-islamification protest in 2015 has ended with the man responsible avoiding jail

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. 

That appeal was then accepted by appeals court judge Grzegorz Kaper last month. 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 was put into the hands of the District Court, which came under the complete control of the PiS Government this summer. When the verdict of the appeal was read out last month, observers considered it a foregone conclusion that Piotr Rybak would avoid jail. 

This fact was well known by Piotr Rybak, as well as his good friend, nationalist ex-priest Jacek Międlar. Międlar recently 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].

Jacek Międlar

As expected, earlier today Wrocław District court reduced Rybak's sentence from 3 months in custody to 3 months of electronic tagging.

After the verdict a triumphant Rybak once again took aim at George Soros, claiming "He is responsible for all this brothel that is currently taking place in Europe."

About Gregor Gowans

Gregor Gowans
The founder and editor of Wroclaw Uncut, Gregor has been running the website since its inception in 2012. A Wroclawian for almost 10 years, Gregor writes on a wide variety of topics including, food & drink, nightlife, local news and politics. He is also a regular guest on Radio Ram's Sunday lunch programme.