German Court Rejects Poland Extradition Over Justice Reforms

BERLIN (AFP) — A German court has for the first time rejected a request to extradite a suspect to Poland over concerns about judicial independence in the fellow European Union member, AFP has learned.

Judges at the superior state court in Karlsruhe said there was a “high probability” that an extradition “would prove to be illegal, at least for the moment, because of current developments in Poland related to the ‘justice reform.'”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose during a 2018 welcome ceremony in Warsaw, Poland, ahead of intergovernmental consultations. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

They lifted an extradition order against the male suspect, according to the decision first reported Monday by RND newspaper group and seen by AFP.

There is “cause to believe that in case of his extradition, the defendant would run the real risk of a breach of his right to a fair trial,” the Karlsruhe judges said.

They added that more information was needed about “punishments threatened against judges and prosecutors in the framework of the justice reform.”

The court did not specify what the suspect was accused of, but RND reported that charges related to “fraud, among other things.”

Since taking office in 2015, Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a slew of controversial judicial reforms that it insists are designed to tackle corruption.

But critics, including the European Commission and top European judicial bodies, argue they threaten judicial independence and the rule of law.

“Other member states are having a hard time supporting the criminal trials of a country that is moving further and further away from the EU’s collective understanding of the rule of law,” German Judges’ Federation (DRB) director Sven Rebehn said.

Poland’s reforms threaten “to isolate it within the European justice community,” Rehbehn added.

© Agence France-Presse

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