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Białystok. The court finally sentenced Jacek W. for inciting hatred at the ONR march in 2016

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Half a year in prison, suspended for two years. This is the final judgment in the case of Jacek W., one of the participants of the ONR march, who walked through the streets of Białystok in 2016. The appeals court upheld the decision of the first instance, finding that the slogan “and Zionists will hang on trees instead of leaves” is an unlawful threat to people of Jewish nationality and an incitement to hatred based on nationality.

The Court of Appeal in Białystok issued a final judgment in the case of Jacek W., who took part in the ONR march in Białystok in 2016.

The court upheld the first instance judgmentin which the man received half a year of imprisonment, suspended for a probation period of two years.

About 400 people took part in the marchTVN24

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The 82nd anniversary of the establishment of ONR was celebrated in Białystok

Jacek W. was convicted of articles regarding inciting hatred “on the basis of national, ethnic, racial, religious differences or due to lack of religious denomination” and directing threats against “a group of people or an individual person because of his or her national, ethnic, racial or political affiliation, denomination or because of its lack of denomination.

He was accused of chanting the slogan “And Zionists will hang on trees instead of leaves” during the ONR march, which took place on April 16, 2016 in Białystok to celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the organization. About 400 people then walked through the streets of the city. As you can see in the recordings recorded by TVN24, many people chanted the slogan.

The lawyer said that the accused did not want to hang anyone

The judgment of the first instance court was appealed by the defense attorney. He wanted an acquittal. According to the defense, such a shout does not constitute a punishable threat within the meaning of the provisions of the Penal Code, because these words were not addressed to a specific group or person, and there was no incitement to hatred based on nationality, because – as the defense argued – the provisions do not provide for liability for inciting hatred based on “belonging to a political and social movement”, and the lawyer considers Zionism to be such.

– I am sure – and the accused also argued this in his explanations – that no one, including him, had any intention of hanging anyone, said attorney Mateusz Lesiak in his final speech.

The march took place as part of the celebration of the 82nd anniversary of ONRTVN24

In the case of the definition of the word “Zionist”, he referred to the linguistic and teleological interpretation and encyclopedia entries.

– It is difficult to find an argument contrary to the fact that it is a political movement (…) and there is no doubt that this concept is not synonymous with the Jewish nation. There are also many Zionists who are not Jews, said attorney Lesiak.

The prosecutor talked about an obvious threat

The prosecutor’s office wanted to dismiss the appeal and uphold the verdict.

– We have no doubt that we are dealing with a threat, because it is difficult to imagine any other meaning of the phrase that someone should hang from a tree. I assess it as an obvious threat and that is how the court of first instance assessed it, said prosecutor Bartłomiej Horba from the Białystok-Południe District Prosecutor’s Office.

In his opinion, the shouts were directed to a specific group of people.

– This is about the Jewish population living either in Poland or outside Poland (…). There is no doubt about who this is really about, he added.

He also said that in Poland such a phrase refers only and exclusively to the Jewish population.

The appellate court fully agreed with the detailed reasoning of the district court and upheld the decision. The judgment is final.

Two other people were legally sentenced last year

In November 2022, the Court of Appeal in Białystok issued a final judgment against two other men. Jarosław R., who was supposed to initiate the chanting of the above-mentioned slogan, was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years (this is a milder sentence than in the first instance, where the execution of the sentence was not suspended – note. ed.), and Krzysztof S., who was supposed to repeat the slogan after Jarosław R., received half a year in prison, suspended for two years. The lawyers of both legally convicted persons filed cassation appeals in the Supreme Court. They have not yet been recognized.

Immediately after the march, prosecutor’s investigations began – first in Białystok and then in Warsaw. They concerned suspicions of inciting hatred based on national, ethnic, racial or religious differences. However, they were legally discontinued. Nevertheless, it opened the way to a subsidiary indictment from the parties considered aggrieved.

SEE ALSO: A march of national groups passed through Hajnówka. Two people suspected of promoting fascism

The secondary indictment concerned seven people

This right was used by Rafał Gaweł (founder of the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior), who accused seven specific activists of national circles of making punishable threats towards representatives of the Jewish community, including him, by shouting: “And Zionists will hang on the trees instead of leaves.” “. According to him, they were supposed to publicly incite hatred based on national differences.

The TVN24 camera captured the moment of chanting the slogan “And Zionists will hang on the trees instead of leaves” (archive material) TVN24, Fakty TVN

– The fact that only two of the seven mentioned people were convicted was due to the fact that the court did not find evidence on the basis of which they could be convicted. As for Jacek W., who has just heard the verdict, he testified as a witness in the trial of these two people – said Konrad Dulkowski, head of the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior, in an interview with tvn24.pl in May last year.

Konrad Dulkowski: in the previous trial, Jacek W. acted as a witness

He adds that Rafał Gaweł initially did not file a subsidiary indictment against Jacek W. because he thought that he would testify against other participants of the march.

– However, this did not happen, because during the trial Jacek W. covered himself with oblivion. If so, OZRiK sent a notification to the Białystok-Południe District Prosecutor’s Office, which brought charges against him and sent the indictment to the District Court in Białystok – Dulkowski told us.

Main photo source: TVN24

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