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Thousands of Poles protest against controversial judicial changes

Thousands of Poles have protested for the eighth day over new rules passed by the ruling party that would drastically limit the independence of the judiciary.

Protesters see moves by the populist governing Law and Justice party as an assault on the country's democratic foundations, accusing party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski of behaving in an authoritarian way to cement his power.

People waved flags of the European Union and Poland as they gathered on Sunday evening in front of the presidential palace in the capital Warsaw.

They called on President Andrzej Duda to veto contentious legislation that would put the Supreme Court and other areas of the judiciary under the party's control.

Polish media reported that other protests were taking place in other cities across Poland and Europe.

The legislation quickly passed both houses of parliament in recent days and now awaits Mr Duda's signature to take effect.

The moves to take control of the courts have also alarmed the European Union, with Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the EU's executive, warning last week that Brussels is very close to stripping Poland of its voting rights in the bloc over rule of law violations.

Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas welcomed the possible EU sanctions against Poland, telling the weekly German paper Bild am Sonntag that "the independence of the judiciary is in danger in Poland".

"Somebody who gives so little respect to the rule of law has to accept that he isolates himself politically," Mr Maas said.

He added that "the EU cannot stand and watch inactively. Rule of law and democracy are the bedrock of the EU."

AP

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