Warsaw, May 25: Poland’s president has appointed a former deputy justice minister as the head of the country’s supreme court, in a move that critics said further undermined judicial independence in the country, The Financial Times reported.

For the past five years, the supreme court has been at the heart of a battle for control of Poland’s judiciary, with outgoing head Malgorzata Gersdorf one of the most outspoken opponents of changes made by the ruling Law and Justice party. The changes have given politicians sweeping powers over the court system and sparked a bitter feud between Warsaw and Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union.

Ms Gersdorf retired at the end of April and, on Monday, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda chose as her successor Malgorzata Manowska, a 55-year-old judge in the supreme court’s civil chamber and, until Monday, head of the state school for judges and prosecutors.

Ms Manowska is well regarded for her legal expertise and is the author of textbooks widely used by law students. Sebastian Kaleta, deputy justice minister, said that she would make a “great” head of the court.

But Law and Justice’s opponents were quick to decry her appointment, claiming that the process of selecting candidates had not followed the law, and pointing out that she worked as deputy justice minister in a previous Law and Justice government in 2007. Her then boss was the current justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, the author of Law and Justice’s contested judicial overhaul.

“Law and Justice is trying to install a former politician in the function of first president of the Supreme Court. Such things don’t fit into any conception of a democratic state of law. This is a standard for a dictatorship,” Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, from the largest opposition party, Civic Platform, wrote on Twitter.

During a hearing of candidates for the post on Saturday, Ms Manowska said she had never made a secret of her political links. But she added that she had not spoken out about politics in the past dozen years and promised to be a “guardian of independence”. “No politician has ever influenced me in the sphere of jurisprudence, nor even tried,” she said.


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