Rafał Gaweł, the founder of the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior, wanted by an international arrest warrant received political asylum in the Kingdom of Norway. In the opinion of the local authorities, his case bears the hallmarks of “political persecution”.
Rafał Gaweł left Poland, together with his wife and two-year-old daughter, when in 2019 he was finally sentenced by a court in Białystok to two years in prison for financial fraud.
“Through diplomatic contacts”
He crossed the border with Norway on January 7, 2019, three days after the sentence was announced, although he did not have a passport taken from him in connection with a criminal case.
– I was deprived of my passport, but through diplomatic contacts, which I cannot reveal, we entered Norway – he explained to the journalists of the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang.
He immediately applied for political asylum, which was rejected at first instance by the local immigration office.
The man appealed against the decision and a week ago – on September 30 to be exact – a decision was made in his favor to grant him political asylum.
According to the appellate institution which examined his application, a man in Poland is at risk of persecution. – His case, under the guise of a criminal case, bears the hallmarks of political persecution by the Polish authorities – commented in the pages of VG a Norwegian lawyer of Polish roots representing Gawła – Łukasz Niedzielski.
– The documentation was so extensive and the applicant’s explanation so convincing that the tribunal was convinced that he was entitled to protection – says Marianne Granlund, quoted by VG, from the office that examined the Pole’s appeal.
We asked about this ruling at the Norwegian embassy in Warsaw.
– The only competent body to comment on this issue is the Norwegian Ministry of Justice – we heard in response.
The first asylum seeker since the fall of the Polish People’s Republic?
Rafał Gaweł is most likely the first Pole since the fall of the People’s Republic of Poland to be granted political asylum in Norway and considered a victim of “political persecution”. Under the decision, he and his family have the right to stay in the kingdom for one year. The consent can be renewed and gives Gawł and his family a chance to obtain permanent residence and work.
Gaweł himself is still listed as wanted in the police database. The basis of the search is Art. 300 paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code, which reads: “frustrating or reducing the satisfaction of his creditor by removing, concealing, selling, donating, destroying or apparently encumbering or damaging his assets seized or threatened with seizure – in order to prevent the execution of a decision of a court or other state body” . In simple terms, it is about hindering the enforcement of receivables by authorized bodies, for example a court.
It was for economic crimes that Rafał Gaweł was convicted by the Polish court. In the first instance, four years in prison, and finally in 2019, the Bialystok Court of Appeal commuted the sentence to two years in prison due to the fact that Gaweł returned part of the amount.
According to the indictment, Gaweł was supposed to use the funds for private purposes, which he obtained for the activities of the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior, and the Trzyrzecze Theater. The victim status in this case has one of the banks defrauded for over PLN 200,000 and the Batory Foundation, which was defrauded for over PLN 100,000.
The head of the Center never pleaded guilty. He accused the prosecution of acting on a political mandate. At the same time, he admitted that his activities are having financial problems. – The debts began when our subsidies were withdrawn – he explained to the journalist tvn24.pl when the prosecutor’s office started the investigation.
– The crimes committed by the accused cannot be treated leniently. Disposing of public funds requires transparency and honesty. It created the appearance of pro publico bono activity, and allocated loans and subsidies to finance civic projects for its own purposes – said judge Alina Kamińska, quoted by “Kurier Poranny” in the justification.
He linked the prosecutor’s charges and the indictment with the activities of the Center, which dealt with tracking crimes committed with racist motives. The center’s representatives submitted numerous notifications to the prosecutor’s offices about committing such acts – only at the end of 2017 as many as 45. According to Gawło, the management of the Ministry of Justice did not like it.
One of the high-profile cases revealed by the Center was the discontinuation of the use of fascist symbols by the Białystok prosecutor’s office. Gaweł informed that prosecutor Dawid Roszkowski considered the swastika to be a “Hindu symbol of happiness” and refused to prosecute the men who used it. A scandal broke out and his boss lost his position. After the change of power, however, he was promoted again and to this day he is the head of the Białystok-South District Prosecutor’s Office.
In another case, the Białystok prosecutor’s office considered the swastika to be “kruswica swarga”.
Problems with the rule of law
Rafał Gaweł wrote about the decision of the Norwegian authorities on Facebook.
“The Norwegian state based its decision to grant me asylum on three pillars: – the inability to conduct a fair and fair trial, due to the destruction of the tripartite division of power by the Polish government and the politicization of the courts – the lack of reaction of the Polish state to the activities of extreme-right and fascist militias and organizations, who use violence against political opponents with impunity – real and documented persecution against me by members of the Polish government and law enforcement agencies, as reflected in my four complaints adopted by the European Court of Human Rights. “
Until its publication, we were unable to get a comment from the Ministry of Justice.
Main photo source: Forum