Head of Polish supreme court defies retirement law condemned by EU

Polish pro-democracy activists

Warsaw's conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government says the reform of the Supreme Court requires Gersdorf to end her term, but the judge says the new rules contravene the constitution and can not be implemented.

President Andrzej Duda announces Supreme Court chief Malgorzata Gersdorf will retire on July 4, but she insists she will come to work as usual.

"My presence here is not about politics, I am here to protect the rule of law", she said as she arrived at the courthouse, according to CNN amid protests from hundreds of her supporters, joined by the prominent anti-Communist protest leader Lech Walesa.

Critics allege the changes were unconstitutional and stacked the court with PiS allies.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left, is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on March 8.

The eurosceptic PiS government rejects criticism, saying European Union treaties do not give Brussels institutions the power to influence national matters such as the judiciary.

She said after showing up for work that she plans to go on holiday from next week, and that Iwulski would be standing in for her during her absence. They accused Law and Justice, whose acronym in Polish is PIS, of dictatorial tendencies. It forces the retirement of about 40 percent of the Supreme Court's justices - 27 out of 73.

It argues that putting judges under the control of the legislative and executive branches will makes the courts answerable to the voters, and thus more democratic.

"This is a watershed moment for the Polish judiciary and indeed for the whole political system", said Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), an independent think tank.

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Under the measures due to come into effect at midnight on Tuesday, almost 37 percent of Supreme Court judges will be forced to retire unless they are granted an extension by Duda, a PiS ally.

On Tuesday evening the three biggest opposition parties had organized protests "In Defense of the Supreme Court" in Warsaw and other major cities.

On Monday the European Union launched legal action against Poland's right-wing government, saying the law undermined judicial independence.

European Union officials and global human rights groups have expressed alarm, alleging the moves represent an erosion of judicial independence that violates Western standards and a reversal for democracy in Poland.

Dozens of people protested in front of the presidential palace Tuesday before Gersdorf's meeting with Duda.

Warsaw faces the threat of losing its voting rights in the bloc under a procedure launched late previous year over judiciary reforms.

He also said he was ready to "lead a physical removal of the main perpetrator of all misfortune", referring to PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said the law was binding and "for the time being our stance is that we are right". The reform of supreme is in addition to or previous legal modifications with which ultraconservatives, since y reached government in 2015, have guaranteed control of Constitutional Court, attorney General of State or mass media Public.

The European Commission, which polices compliance with EU laws, opened an "infringement procedure" Monday over the Supreme Court law.

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