President of Poland Andrzej Duda speaks during a news conference in Tirana, Albania. File picture: Reuters
President of Poland Andrzej Duda speaks during a news conference in Tirana, Albania. File picture: Reuters

Writer faces prison after calling Polish president 'moron'

By The Washington Post Time of article published Mar 23, 2021

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Adam Taylor

Polish writer Jakub Zulczyk says he is facing up to three years in prison after he called Poland's president a "moron" for saying he did not understand the US electoral college system.

Writing on Facebook on Monday, Zulczyk said that a district prosecutor in Warsaw had filed an indictment, using an article in Poland's penal code that prohibits insults against the head of state. The writer said he had not been contacted by the prosecutor and had found out about the indictment from a Polish news site.

Zulczyk is accused of insulting Polish President Andrzej Duda after the US elections last November. Duda, a right-wing ally of former president Donald Trump, had said the Biden team had won a "successful presidential campaign" but stopped short of recognizing him as the winner of the election.

"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," Duda wrote in his Nov. 7 tweet.

The Polish leader's remarks about the outcome of the electoral college vote echoed those made by some Republicans in the United States and were interpreted as a hedge by some journalists.

But according to accounts in the Polish press, Zulczyk wrote that Duda was mistaken and that "everything that takes place from today - adding the rest of the votes, electoral votes - is pure formality."

"Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States," he concluded. "Andrzej Duda is a moron."

In his Facebook post on Monday, Zulczyk said he was being indicted on a charge under Article 135 of the penal code, which prohibits insults aimed at the president of Poland and designates them punishable by up to three years in prison.

"I am, I suspect, the first writer in a very long time to stand trial for what he wrote," Zulczyk wrote.

International rights groups have criticized Duda's ruling Law and Justice party for clamping down on freedom of speech and an independent judiciary. Freedom House, a U.S.-based group, has called Poland's laws related to insults "harsh" and noted that libel should be a criminal, rather than civil, offense.

On Tuesday, Zulczyk wrote up a follow-up post to announce that he would not be speaking to the media about the case, but that he was dismayed that he was facing charges when Duda faced no repercussions for saying LGBT rights was "worse" than communism.

"Beatings and violent attacks on LGBT people are much too common in Poland," Zulczyk said. "And yet, none of the Prosecutor's Offices have pressed any charges against President Duda and his incriminating words."

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