Polish president’s office challenges top court’s decisions

August 3, 2018
Protesters holding a Polish national flag shout slogans as they gather in front of the Presidential Palace to show President Andrzej Duda their disapproval after he signed the latest legislation on the Supreme Court into law, in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday, July 26, 2018. Thousands of people in Warsaw and other cities in Poland are protesting against the latest moves by the ruling right-wing party aimed at helping it take control of the Supreme Court and other courts. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A decision by Poland’s Supreme Court to suspend early retirement of its judges is unlawful, an aide to President Andrzej Duda said Friday.

The statement was the latest in a tug-of-war over the conservative ruling party’s steps to take control of the courts and justice system as it changes legislation and installs loyalists in top judicial positions. The Law and Justice party argues that the steps are to mend inefficiencies and free the system from communist-era judges, but critics say they are paralyzing it and violating the constitution.

A few hundred Warsaw residents with lights and national flags held another day of protest before the court’s building.

European Union leaders say the changes threaten Poland’s rule of law and violate EU values, and are pursuing sanctions procedures.

The court has suspended the implementation of new legislation that forces the retirement of judges aged 65 and over, including the chief justice, and has asked the EU’s Court of Justice to check if the early retirement plans abide by EU treaties. A ruling, which could take months to emerge, is expected to provide guidance for all of the bloc’s 28 member nations.

Duda’s aide Andrzej Mucha said Poland’s law does not allow for the suspension and said the court was trying to “circumvent the law.”

Duda is currently weighing whether to grant the request by 14 of the court’s judges who want to continue working past the age of 65.

Government opponents have also protested by dressing key monuments in T-shirts and banners saying “Constitution!”

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