A Polish writer could face up to three years in prison for calling the nation’s president a “moron” on social media.
Jakub Zulczyk had criticised the manner in which Polish President Andrzej Duda – a close ally of former US president Donald Trump – had reacted to the electoral victory of President Joe Biden last year.
Mr Zulczyk wrote on Facebook on Monday that a district prosecutor in Warsaw had filed a charge against him based on an article in the penal code that makes it a crime to insult the head of state.
Mr Zulczyk said he believed that he is probably “the first writer in this country in a long time to be tried for what they wrote”.
People have also been charged in the past for insulting previous Polish presidents in the post-communist era under the country’s broad insult laws. Fines or fines or community service — and not years in prison — are seen as the most likely punishment.
However, the case also comes amid what many see as an erosion of democratic standards in Poland since a right-wing populist party, Law and Justice, won power in 2015. Government critics accuse the authorities of aggressively harnessing prosecutorial powers to promote those in power.
The comment in question concerns a critical response by Mr Zulczyk to a congratulatory tweet by Mr Duda after US media called the election for Mr Biden on November 7.
Mr Duda offered his congratulations to Mr Biden “for a successful presidential campaign”.
He went on: As we await the nomination by the Electoral College, Poland is determined to upkeep high-level and high-quality PL-US strategic partnership for an even stronger alliance.”
At the time of Mr Duda’s tweet, many other European leaders were offering full-fledged congratulations to Mr Biden. At home, Mr Duda was criticised by many for suggesting that Mr Biden’s victory was somehow not definitive and that the Electoral College could still somehow change the result.
That same day, Mr Zulczyk wrote on Facebook that as someone with a master’s degree in American studies, he had never heard of a “nomination by the Electoral College” in the US system. He said the Democratic candidate had clearly won the election.
“Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States. Andrzej Duda is a moron,” he wrote.
Prosecutors made their indictment based on the complaint of a private individual, and it was unclear if Mr Duda had been informed about it.