The trial of the Antykomor.pl website has started – an account from the courtroom
At the Regional Court in Piotrków Trybunalski, the first hearing took place in the case against Robert F., charged with, among other things, publicly insulting the President of the Republic of Poland (art. 135(2) of the Criminal Code) in connection with running a website including critical and satirical materials about President Bronisław Komorowski (case file No III K 56/12). The website included, among other things, provocative graphics exploiting the image of the President of Poland as well as shooting games in which the President’s image was used as the target.
The case was given huge publicity in May 2011, when – at the request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office – officers of the Internal Security Agency (Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego, ABW) entered and searched Robert F.’s apartment early in the morning, and seized, among other things, the computer of the website’s creator. Although ABW actions raised doubts in light of the proportionality principle that should be applied by state authorities when resorting to force, the court examining legality of the action finally decided that it was carried out with full observance of the law.
At the prosecutor’s request, the whole hearing was closed to the public. Apart from the parties to the case, the judge agreed only to the presence of two persons of trust elected by the defendant, and Dorota Głowacka who observed the hearing as a representative of the HFHR. In the substantiation of the decision to close the hearing to the public, the judge argued that due to indecent character of the evidence collected in the case, an open hearing, which numerous media intended to cover, could lead to violation of good conduct rules as well as to violation of important private interest of the President of Poland (art. 360(1)(2-4) of the Criminal Procedure Code). “There is a human being behind each public office” – argued the judge.
In addition, the judge pointed to art. 359(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code which says that a hearing in the case of defamation or insult is closed to the public by law and can be made public only at the request of the injured party. Although – as the court noted – the above-mentioned provision applies mainly to proceedings initiated at the request of private prosecutor on the basis of art. 212 and art. 216 of the Criminal Code, the court found that it could be applied also to the present case. In this case, the motion to open the hearing to the public would have to be filed by President Bronisław Komorowski who so far has not participated in the proceedings. As the case has been closed to the public, it is forbidden to disclose any information pertaining to the course of the proceedings. Additionally, the court denied permission to publicise the graphics that are the object of charges against Robert F.
By way of reminder, the provision pertaining to insulting the head of state was addressed in the judgement of the Constitutional Tribunal in July 2011 (P 12/09). At that time, the Tribunal found the provision to be constitutional.