Prison

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Getting Out of Poland’s Remand Prison

Maciej Dobrowolski spent 40 months in prison because he was accused of committing two felonies. The excessive use of detention in remand is under the spotlight in Poland.

On the far-flung northern outskirts of Warsaw, Poland’s largest remand prison, Warsaw-Bialoleka, serves as a distant memory of the country’s communist past. Built in the 1950s, it held 600-plus Solidarity leaders and activists following a crackdown on the movement during the communist regime’s imposed martial law three decades later.

Today, the facility detains well-over 1,000 inmates, and while it’s a different to the 1980s, some of them are held without sentence for much longer periods of time than the Solidarity internees.

Maciej Dobrowolski, 37, was living behind the impenetrable concrete walls and loops of barbed wire of the Warsaw-Bialoleka remand prison for over half of his 40 months inside.

Last September, he was unexpectedly released on bail, and he wholeheartedly credits his friends and the media for it, not the Polish judicial system.

Now, stooping over a table at an almost half-a-century old, 1970s-styled Warsaw restaurant, situated on the same street as the Polish president’s Belweder Palace, he cracks a smile while recounting the events of the past three and a half years with a lot of humor. But it seems like there’s another side to him, one that rarely surfaces and is much more emotional and filled with anger over what he feels was injustice.

Speaking with a hoarse voice that tends to thin out, he repeats what he has been saying during the weeks after his release: “I still can’t believe that it could happen in my country.”

THE CHARGES

It was 6am when someone pounded at his Warsaw apartment’s door. The officers of the Central Bureau of Investigations poured inside, handcuffed him, told his fiancée to stay still, and searched every room and later the basement and car. Nothing was found.

Nevertheless, after a few hours, Dobrowolski was on his way to a detention facility, just like 40 others arrested that day in similar circumstances. Upon being escorted to the police van, he just had time to kiss his fiancée goodbye.

They both thought it was a misunderstanding. It was late in May 2012 and in September they planned to wed. The bride and groom’s outfits were ready, the banquet hall and orchestra booked. A closet full of vodka crates awaited the celebration. A few days earlier, Dobrowolski had been handing out the invitations.

But now, he was facing a very different reality. In court, he heard charges of taking part in intra-community drug trafficking from the Netherlands to Poland, together and in agreement with members of an organized crime group. The felonies had a jail term of up to 15 years.

“It was a total shock,” admits Dobrowolski, who doesn’t have a criminal record. “When they were presenting the charges against me, I was thinking this must be some sort of a candid camera prank and any second someone will yell, ‘Got you!’”

Warsaw

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Only one thing, or rather person, sounded familiar. As it turned out, the charges resulted from the testimony of gang member-turned-crown witness Marek H. (nicknamed Hanior), a person Dobrowolski had known.

OVER 700 KILOS OF MARIJUANA

Attending his first football match as an 11-year-old, after asking his father, Jerzy Dobrowolski, to take him to the stadium, Maciej has become an avid Legia Warsaw supporter over time.

“Legia turned out to be one of the most important things in his life,” admits Jerzy Dobrowolski.

His son’s commitment to the club ran much deeper than most other fans. He wrote for Nasza Legia (Our Legia) magazine and joined the Legia Warsaw Fans Association, later taking on the responsibility for logistics of traveling to away games. That role made him rise to prominence among the club supporters.

During this time he met Marek H., who attended Legia games and events connected with the club, but as Maciej Dobrowolski says, “It was more of a passing acquaintance.”

In 2010, Maciej Dobrowolski played a big role in organizing a charity game between Legia and the Dutch ADO Den Haag. The purpose of it was to raise money for a veteran Legia fan, Wojtek Wisiński, who was confined to a wheelchair because of a serious disease.

To work out the details of the friendly encounter, Dobrowolski traveled back and forth between Poland and the Netherlands many times. But according to Marek H., those trips had a different purpose and he said that having a good knowledge of English, Dobrowolski accompanied him on numerous occasions and helped with the purchase of over 700 kilograms of marijuana that was later trafficked to Poland.

Dobrowolski admitted that he went with Marek H. to The Hague two times by car because it was cheaper than the alternatives. However, Dobrowolski denies having any knowledge of or having anything to do with the drug trafficking scheme.

THE PRISON

The metal-framed bunk beds, lockers, toilet and a sink blended perfectly with the grayish decor at the Warsaw-Mokotow remand prison, south of the city center. The overall gloom of the cell Dobrowolski found himself in was noticeable at first sight. Wearing the only clothes he had and being without any other possessions made his predicament all the more uncomfortable, but that was his new stark reality.

After presenting the charges against him, the court remanded Dobrowolski in custody for three months. The strong suspicion, based on evidence, that he committed felonies and the risk of him interfering with witnesses were the reasons given. The charges were the basis for his designation as a dangerous detainee.

As a consequence, a new set of rules severely limited his life. One of the rules was no right to make phone calls, but the restrictions went further and impacted his contact with close ones, even restricting the number of hour-long visits. This was hard to accept.

“I was concerned about him,” admits Krzysztof Wąsowski, Dobrowolski’s lawyer, who could visit him at any time during the prison’s open hours. “He couldn’t understand the situation he found himself in. He was ready to testify on the spot and also wanted me to explain that it was all a misunderstanding.”


By the time Maciej Dobrowolski was brought back to the capital, this time to the Warsaw-Bialoleka remand prison, his case still hadn’t been filed yet. It was the tenth month of the investigation carried out by the public prosecutor’s office.


The dangerous detainee status also kept him isolated from other inmates, with the exception of the people in his cell, but the faces changed a lot as juggling inmates was common practice. Nevertheless, he experienced the internal solidarity among detainees when they gave him clothes and underwear he badly needed. Due to restrictions, his first clothes parcel came after three months.

ON THE MOVE

The bell sound pierced through the remand prison’s inner walls prompting inmates to make their beds. It was the 6am wakeup call and, after he got up, Dobrowolski was told to take all his belongings and put them into a convoy truck.

Three months earlier, during the summer, he had been transferred from Warsaw to Radom, over 100 kilometers south of Warsaw. Now, at the beginning of December 2012, he was on his way to Gdansk, a city on the Baltic coast, over 400 kilometers north of Poland’s capital city.

The trip up north was a result of a leg injury, sustained one day while working out at Radom’s remand prison. The local facility lacked the resources to treat his injury and Gdansk was where he could receive the proper medical care.

The convoy that took him in the morning turned out to be a three day prison’s tour. Dobrowolski was kept in the dark about the route.

“We stayed overnight at some facilities on the way, where I could sleep, but it took a lot of time to cover the distance to Gdansk,” he says. “I remember hearing George Michael’s Last Christmas at some point on the radio in the truck as this was the beginning of December. I knew I wouldn’t be home for Christmas. It felt traumatizing.”

As noted in the case records, Dobrowolski was moved to Gdansk to receive medical treatment and it went on for about two weeks. But then a month passed and then another, but he was still in Gdansk.

“I think that the prosecutor didn’t mind me being there as long as possible,” he says. “I was far away from my family and hometown. I mean, they could find a treatment for my leg in Warsaw, but instead I was hundreds of kilometers away. It was an attempt to break me.”

It’s hard to say if his belief is true, but the fact is that his case relates only to Warsaw and it was his lawyer’s idea, not the prosecutor’s decision, that brought him back to the capital after spending three months in Gdansk.

The plan was to call Dobrowolski as a witness to testify in an unrelated case that was proceeding before a court in Warsaw. It was suggested he had been at the Legia’s stadium restaurant when another person smuggled flares in to the stands and then lit them during a game. When asked in court about the situation, he truthfully denied having seen anything. It was a skillfully played move and it worked. Nobody would make the effort to take him back to Gdansk now.

DAY BY DAY

The clinking of teacups and saucers, brought together a bit too roughly, fill the airwaves of a bustling confectionery shop situated on the same street as the 1970s-style restaurant in which his son was recounting the years spent in custody. Jerzy Dobrowolski is sitting in his coat, with his flat cap placed to his side. The water in his teapot has already sat a few minutes past its burning hot prime and his tea bag is dry, as he is busy recounting the events that followed Maciej’s arrest.

“At first, I was sure it had been a misunderstanding and they would let him go soon,” says Jerzy Dobrowolski, adding that they decided not to cancel Maciej’s wedding ceremony for some time. “I knew he sometimes helped friends with translation, but they don’t put you in jail for that. But the amount of drugs he allegedly trafficked was unbelievable, and it was only based on the crown witness testimony, not on physical evidence. I couldn’t understand that.”

Prison

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It wasn’t until his son got transferred to Radom, after the first few months, that Dobrowolski senior had seen his son for the first time since the arrest. Earlier, with the limited amount of visits, Maciej’s fiancée was the only one visiting him.

“He felt innocent and that’s what gave him strength, but he was not made out of steel,” says Jerzy Dobrowolski, who adds that later on, especially after Maciej found himself in Gdansk, he and his wife would visit him more frequently. “Trying to conceal the tears in our eyes we tried to comfort him. He was doing everything to convince us that he’s doing fine and it’s just a matter of time until they’re going to release him.”

By the time Maciej Dobrowolski was brought back to the capital, this time to the Warsaw-Bialoleka remand prison, his case still hadn’t been filed yet. It was the tenth month of the investigation carried out by the public prosecutor’s office. After the initial three months, the period of remand was extended for another three months and then another three months and then another three months, extending the custody to over a year. The reasons were always the same.

“The court doesn’t review them because it doesn’t have to,” says Michal Korolczuk, one of lawyers representing Maciej Dobrowolski. “The decision to extend the custody in remand is just based on the evidence based suspicion that the act was committed by the charged person and that it entails a severe penalty. There are numerous rulings and court-adopted standpoints which say it’s the proper way to proceed.”

Every three months, Dobrowolski’s never-fainting glimmer of hope was put to a test by the court, but besides that nothing much was going on. The days blurred into a monotonous daily routine that filled his life and gave him the much-needed sense of his life having any meaning.

“After the 6 o’clock wakeup call, you could spend the whole day watching TV or just lying in your bunk bed,” says Dobrowolski. “Every day I waited for the soap operas and newscasts, but I was also working out, reading books, doing crosswords, and then at 9 or 10 pm it was time to sleep. Winters were better for that part because it quickly got dark, so I went to bed earlier.”

The year 2013 went by and nothing changed. Then, at the beginning of January 2014, after a year-and-a-half of the preliminary investigation, the case was brought to court.

FRIENDS TO COUNT ON

Ignoring the ubiquitous TV screens replaying a football game, a handful of guests chat while sipping on their drinks. Sitting below a picture of one of Legia’s greats, Lucjan Brychczy, at the Legia stadium restaurant is Marcin Rudowski, Dobrowolski’s close and decades-long friend.

Rudowski’s devotion to his cause, which he largely helped to publicize, had been robust and unparalleled. “They wanted to break him,” he says without any hesitation. “That’s why he spent so much time in remand.”

The reasons for Dobrowolski’s arrest were a shock for his close circle of friends, most of them being die-hard Legia fans, just like Rudowski, who had some experience being detained before or after the games. But in Maciej’s predicament there was not much they could do to help him, besides sending in money to his prison account and waiting in hope that it’s all cleared up as quick as possible. However, sitting and waiting was not easy to accept.

As a result of the visiting restrictions, there was no chance to see him, but they found their way around. “Usually we knew where Maciej’s cell was, so we arrived at the prison walls and shouted to him,” says Rudowski. “Sometimes we tried to catch a glimpse of him when he was out in the prison yard. We wanted to let him know that we’re there and that he can count on us.”

In September 2012, at the day of his planned wedding, when Dobrowolski was in Radom, his friends made another effort to show him their support. This time a group of almost 40 people, including those invited for the wedding ceremony and ADO Den Haag fans who had booked their plane tickets and decided to come, arrived near the prison walls and lit up the sky with flares.


It was Kowalski’s idea to create the #UwolnicMacka (Free Maciej) hashtag that took off via social media and then spread to the mainstream media, elevating Dobrowolski’s case to a wholly unexpected campaign level across Poland.


One day, lying in a hospital bed with catheters placed in his veins, Rudowski, who was about to undergo a spinal surgery, heard the news of Dobrowolski testifying in the “flare” case after being transported from Gdansk. Without much deliberation he called a friend to pick him up, jumped out of bed in his Legia-green T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, and sneaked out into the car that drove him to the courtroom.

Soon after the surgery, posing as Dobrowolski’s cousin and attaching his medical history to the application, he obtained a permission to visit him at the Warsaw-Bialoleka facility. “There was no other way I could see him,” he explains. “And I had to see what was his physical and mental condition. He was good.”

However, no matter what Rudowski and others did, the persisting feeling among them was that they could do more and they had a new idea.

THE CASE

As Dobrowolski’s detention in remand kept being extended, his friends hired Michal Korolczuk. He had represented another person arrested on analogous charges on the same day as Dobrowolski, and obtained his release just after eight months of remand.

With hiring him, expectations ran high. However, after the charges were filed in January 2014, the criminal proceedings came to a standstill until July the same year as one of the judges recused himself due to a conflict of interest and a new one had to get familiar with the case. That didn’t in any way prevent the court from extending Dobrowolski’s temporary arrest in the meantime.

But the real blow came when an Appellate Court, which came into play after two years of remand and had been considered to be a safeguard measure against a long-lasting detention, took the same stand.

“We had a whole array of arguments that weighed in favor of releasing Maciej, but they fell flat,” recounts Korolczuk. “His inability to interfere with the police-protected crown witness, lack of any other evidence, examples of other accused with analogous charges quickly released on bail, and the excessive length of proceedings. None of these mattered to the court.”

There was not much hope for improvement of Dobrowolski’s legal situation, until the long-awaited start of the trial in the second half of 2014, when a small crown witness who had been presented in the case files as one potentially incriminating Dobrowolski testified. Asked about Maciej in court, he strikingly denied knowing who he was.

Yet the court’s standing remained firm and unchanged. Dobrowolski’s lawyers were helpless.

THE CAMPAIGN

Basking in the sun, the meticulously cut swathes of green grass suffuse the inner confines of the Legia Warsaw stadium. Above several rows of empty seats on the western side, in one of the many simple but elegant lounges, Lukasz Kowalski is in the middle of his workday. He’s been a journalist for 20 years and he now works with the club.

Just like Rudowski, a mutual buddy, he has known Dobrowolski for about two decades and has forged a strong friendship with him. “Maciej’s situation put that friendship to a test and I’m glad we proved ourselves as friends,” he says with a sort of relief in his voice.


When asked about Dobrowolski, the newly elected president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, said in an interview for a local radio station in Szczecin that he heard about his case and that he would ask the public prosecutor general and the minister of justice about it.


It was Kowalski’s idea to create the #UwolnicMacka (Free Maciej) hashtag that took off via social media and then spread to the mainstream media, elevating Dobrowolski’s case to a wholly unexpected campaign level across Poland. “The only thing we regret is not starting the media campaign earlier,” he admits.

The media campaign wasn’t started earlier for a reason. For many months, the prospect of talking to the mainstream media was a bitter pill that no one dared to swallow. The underlying feelings were those of outrage at the way the die-hard football supporters had been portrayed in general. Although every once in a while the hooligan image had been fueled by some of them, the willingness of the media to focus exclusively on the negative had produced a maze of mistrust.

The breakthrough came in early 2014, when Rudowski and Dobrowolski’s fiancée gave an interview to Gazeta Wyborcza, one of the most popular daily newspapers on the market, though arguably the most disliked by football supporters because of their coverage.

“We had a green light from Maciej, but it still cost us greatly to go and talk to them,” says Rudowski. “We were desperate. None of the lawyers gave Maciej a slight chance of being released on bail. We wanted to see if the media could help us. We took the risk.”

The article appeared in the local edition of Gazeta Wyborcza and didn’t cause much of a stir, but it was quickly followed with another one and then another one after a few months. The groundwork was done. However, it was not until the creation of the hashtag and the setting up of a Facebook profile in May 2015 that the snowball really started rolling.

One of the early ideas of what soon could be called a campaign was to print 28,000 postcards with a picture of Maciej Dobrowolski and the hashtag, sell them for the price of a stamp, and then persuade people to send them to the remand prison addressed to Dobrowolski. It was a way of showing support and teasing the authorities as his correspondence was subject to censorship. Eventually, about 6,000 postcards were sent.

Another move was to reach out to other teams’ fan groups and persuade them to hang out banners supporting Dobrowolski during games. “Fans of Gornik Zabrze did it first. Then, the next week, Lech Poznan joined in—and considering the animosities between us, [it] was really remarkable,” says Rudowski.

Pictures of banners hung in support of Maciej from fans of teams, including those from lower leagues, kept coming in. There were also those from regular people holding banners. The most surprising were the drawings from school kids expressing their support.

“In the mornings, I had like 100 messages or even more to open,” says Rudowski who managed the page. “The ones with attached pictures had priority, but I was doing my best to respond to each and every one of them. Only two or three ended up on the page because I was afraid that too many of them will put visitors off the profile.”

The Facebook profile thrived and with the initial mistrust gone, Kowalski, with his tenure in the media, spread the message among fellow journalists. The requests for interviews started coming in from TV and radio channels and newspapers alike.

Andrzej Duda

Andrzej Duda © Shutterstock

“It was getting big to the point that we felt that there’s no way of controlling it” says Kowalski. “Even when we declined some interviews, the articles in the press still appeared.”

CRIMINAL NO. 1

May 2015 marked three years since Dobrowolski’s arrest. For the last few months, he only saw visitors from behind the Plexiglas, and communication was limited to a guard controlled talk via telephone. He was sanctioned after one of the visits when his parents, concerned about his health, tried to give him a box of vitamins, but they had not notified the prison authorities about it beforehand.

In fall 2014, Dobrowolski’s fiancée left him. “She didn’t pass the test of time and I cannot really blame her,” sighs Dobrowolski with his head hung low, giving the impression that he hasn’t gotten over it yet. “She just wasn’t the one.”

Early in 2015, the trial proceedings moved forward, but his frustration mounted. Desperately looking for some turning point, he sued Aleksandra Kussyk, the chief judge presiding over the court proceedings over limiting his contact with his family members, sanctioning visits through glass and not being given the right to call his lawyer.

This move didn’t go unnoticed by the media who after the initial outlining of his case were in need of fuel. This came from an unexpected source. In a June interview, Jerzy Leder, the chair of the Criminal Justice Division of the Warsaw’s Appellate Court, largely exaggerated Dobrowolski’s role calling him the number one person in the organized crime group.

A few weeks later, Kussyk stated that the scale and intensity of the publicity given to keeping Dobrowolski in prison on remand is seen by the court as an attempt to influence the case, as is the fact that the accused asked The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights for help in his case.

“I couldn’t believe how someone could say that in a democratic state governed by the rule of law,” says Korolczuk. “Informing public opinion about a case that is, as a rule, open to the public is in accordance with the basic standards of a criminal trial.”

THE TURNING POINT

When asked about Dobrowolski, the newly elected president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, said in an interview for a local radio station in Szczecin that he heard about his case and that he would ask the public prosecutor general and the minister of justice about it.

It was the end of August 2015. The president’s public acknowledging of Dobrowolski’s case had a huge significance and the spirits in the Dobrowolski’s camp were flying high once again, although just before Duda’s interview the atmosphere had been gloomy.

On August 27, the Appellate Court extended the remand period for another three months, until November 30. The reasons given were similar every time the court extended the remand and included the severity of potential penalties and the need to secure the proper proceedings.

“We were convinced that was going to be it, and then when I heard about the court’s decision I felt like crying,” says Kowalski.


Dobrowolski, his circle of friends and lawyers have no doubt that the wide media coverage of his situation has been crucial to his release.


A few days after Duda’s interview in Szczecin, the presidential office sent an official request asking for information about Dobrowolski’s repeatedly extended remand. Shortly, the public prosecutor general turned to the Appellate public prosecutor’s office and referred them to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights regarding the abnormal use of the detention on remand by the Polish judiciary.

THE RELEASE

Stammering in a monotone voice, with his hand to his forehead, the chief judge of Warsaw’s Appellate Court, Jerzy Leder, read the court’s decision. “The probability of negatively influencing the case proceedings gets smaller and smaller with time … and shouldn’t be the only basis for extending the remand … the court decided that in the case of Maciej Dobrowolski the requirement to report at specified time to a police station and obligation to pay the amount of 50,000 zloty [$12,400] in order to secure release are sufficient to secure the proper proceedings.”

Listening to the court’s statement, Jerzy Dobrowolski, Kowalski and Rudowski all nervously shifted, but with every uttered word their anxiety gave way to joy. Although this was the best news they heard since the time of Maciej Dobrowolski’s arrest, there was not much time for celebration. Maciej could be released on the same day—they just had to deliver the money. And the judge said it had to be delivered by 3:45pm.

Kowalski, Rudowski and another of Dobrowolski’s friends were not alarmed. They had about 40 minutes and enough money put aside to pay the bail amount. However, when they arrived at the court with the required sum in cash, as they were instructed, it turned out that the only way to pay the bail amount was through a bank transfer. So they rushed to a bank, transferred the money and came back to the court building with a confirmation. They were only just on time, but it didn’t matter that much.

“We learned that the deadline wasn’t really the deadline,” says Kowalski. “They would have waited for us.”

A few hours later, Dobrowolski was released. It was September 29, 2015, three years and four months after his arrest in May 2012.

NOTHING NEW

The solemn walls of the District Court echo the sound of the passing cars and trams. The rectangular edifice the court resides in was built before the Second World War and used as one of the escape routes from the Warsaw Ghetto during Nazi Germany’s occupation. Up on the second floor in a modestly furnished room, Ewa Furtak-Leszczynska, the press officer of the Criminal Justice Division, rustles through the filed sheets of paper. She’s the only person who could be contacted about Dobrowolski’s case as the Appellate Court and public prosecutor’s office finished their proceedings and, therefore, do not have the case files anymore.

Having been briefed in advance about the questions, she answers almost flawlessly, using vivid examples to illustrate the reasoning applied by the court for the excessive detention of Maciej Dobrowolski. She said that the gathered evidence made a strong case that he committed the two felonies he was accused of and that the amount of drugs he took part in buying and placing on the Polish market could intoxicate Warsaw’s whole population.

However, there is one question she struggles to answer: the reason for the change in the court’s decision with regard to Dobrowolski’s release on bail.

“The District Court was still of the opinion that the detention on remand should be extended and the Appellate Court initially agreed, but after the defense filed a complaint, the latter acceded,” says Furtak-Leszczynska, explaining that she doesn’t know the details of the case in a sufficient degree to give her own opinion and that she can only present the court’s decision.

“The decision was made in accordance with the public prosecutor’s office, which changed its view of the case. Until that point, it maintained a consistent position about the need to extend the remand period.”

Dobrowolski, his circle of friends and lawyers have no doubt that the wide media coverage of his situation has been crucial to his release.

“From the legal perspective, nothing new occurred that would justify Maciej’s release on 29th of September and not on 27th of August,” says Korolczuk. “The media made our voice heard and the coverage sparked the interest of many other institutions. I’m afraid that without their support, my client would have faced the same predicament. I don’t know for how long.”

HOPE FOR A CHANGE

The excessive use of detention in remand by the Polish judiciary was deemed a structural problem and has been repeatedly criticized by the European Court of Human Rights since 2000. Over the years, some of the European Court of Human Rights’ judgments have been implemented and the numbers show significant progress. According to the Ministry of Justice data, in 2005 the number of detentions in remand amounted to 35,000 dropping to over 11,000 in 2014. In the same time period, the length of remand shortened from over 1,000 cases that crossed the two-year detention period in 2005 to about 400 in 2014.

Korolczuk admits that things have improved, but some major problems still remain, especially in cases involving organized crime-related charges—and Dobrowolski’s case brings them to light.

“The courts rubber-stamped the prosecution’s applications, imposing the custody in remand automatically without taking into account Maciej’s personal circumstances or considering the facts of the case,” he says. “It was possible given the severity of the potential penalty and the presumption that the defendant may influence the proceedings. Our line of defense and my client’s behavior didn’t matter. There was no way we could overturn the constantly invoked presumption of influencing the proceedings on any grounds.”

The judge’s habit to nearly always follow the recommendation of the prosecutor to order detention and the lack of consideration concerning the defendant’s submissions in sufficient detail were identified—among other flaws—in a 2012 report about pre-trial detention in Poland by Fair Trials Internationals, a human rights organization. The report acknowledged the ongoing legal reforms, but expressed concern about the gap between law and practice.

Adam Bodnar, one of the experts that worked with Fair Trials International who also got involved in the effort to release Dobrowolski, says officially asking the court about practical reasons for extending his detention period points to another shortcoming.

“In many countries, the law stipulates a maximum period of detention in remand, and even if the trial goes on, the accused is released when the period is exceeded. In Poland, there are no such guarantees,” he says, adding that he knows cases of people having being held in remand for several years. “The situation when the detention period goes on for over two to three years and there’s no sentence in the court of first resort and the accused is remanded in custody raises doubts as far as human rights standards.”

AND TODAY…

Back in the 1970s-styled restaurant, Maciej Dobrowolski is finishing his tea. It’s been some time since he left prison, but he still wakes up at 6am, eats modest meals and can’t get the turning key’s metallic latching in the cell lock sound out of his head.

“I’ll have to start building my life anew,” he says. “On one hand, I’m stronger and I’ve gained a new perspective on life. On the other, I’m angry over my situation and the situation of others who face the same predicament and whose cases don’t have any media exposure. I hope that my example will change something in the way such cases are handled.”

Dobrowolski has been released on bail, but some of the 40 people arrested on the same day and in the same case as him are still being held in remand. The court proceedings continue.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Dabarti CGI / Jacek Kadaj / Media PicturesShutterstock.com


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