Polish senator sues party leader over surveillance remarks
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish opposition senator whose phone was hacked with advanced spyware has filed a civil suit against Poland’s ruling party leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, for slander over comments suggesting that he was placed under surveillance in connection to wrongdoing.
Hours after the news was reported Monday about Sen. Krzysztof Brejza’s case against Kaczynski, Polish prosecutors informed Brejza’s father, a city mayor, that he was under investigation as a suspect and needed to appear for questioning.
Both father and son insist that they have done nothing wrong, and accuse authorities of seeking political revenge. They also believe the ruling Law and Justice party is trying to cast suspicion on them as a way to justify the use of the surveillance software, a tool meant to fight terrorism and other serious crimes, against political opponents.
The hacking revelations have rocked Poland, drawing comparisons to the 1970s Watergate scandal in the United States and eliciting calls for an investigative commission in parliament.
Brejza called the decision to summon his father “revenge targeting the family” for the lawsuit and for revealing “crimes related to illegal surveillance of the opposition.” He spoke Monday at a news conference in parliament alongside his wife, Dorota Brejza, who is also his lawyer.
Ryszard Brejza, the mayor of Inowroclaw, a city in central Poland, said he was delivered a letter informing him that he must appear for questioning as a suspect but wasn’t informed of what the case involves.
“I feel a little like the character from the Franz Kafka novel ‘The Trial.’ I don’t know what this concerns. I can only guess,” he told the news station TVN24.
A spokesperson from the prosecutor’s office in Gdansk said Ryszard Brejza was being summoned “as a suspect” for a “failure to fulfill his obligations and the violation of powers” by officers of City Hall in Inowroclaw involving the theft of public money.
A city spokesperson noted that Ryszard Brejza himself had informed prosecutors four years earlier that public money had been stolen in the city.
Krzysztof Brejza was hacked multiple times in 2019, mostly when he was running the opposition’s parliamentary election campaign, according to an analysis by experts at the Citizen Lab, a research institute at the University of Toronto. The findings were confirmed by technical experts at Amnesty International.
Citizen Lab found that two other Polish critics of the right-wing authorities were also hacked, all three with Pegasus spyware by Israel’s NSO Group. The other two are Ewa Wrzosek, a prosecutor, and Roman Giertych, a lawyer.
The Associated Press reported the hackings in exclusive reports based on the Citizen Lab and Amnesty International findings.
Kaczynski acknowledged Friday that Poland had purchased Pegasus, describing it as a tool that many states now have to combat crime and corruption.
In Brejza’s case, text messages stolen from his phone were doctored and aired by state-controlled TV in Poland as part of a smear campaign in the heat of the race, which the populist ruling party went on to narrowly win.