Polish minister’s “inappropriate” comments not a barrier to extradition



A barrister has told the High Court that “inappropriate” comments by a Polish government minister should not prevent Ireland extraditing a man to Poland to face allegations of drug trafficking.

Polish Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchoł has previously hit out at the Irish High Court for delaying the extradition of 31-year-old Artur Celmer.

The minister described Mr Celmer as a “drug mafia criminal”, a phrase that Mr Celmer’s counsel Sean Guerin SC told the High Court was evidence of the risk to his client’s right to a fair trial in Poland.

Counsel for the State, Remy Farrell SC, said the minister’s comments, while inappropriate, are “neither here nor there” and no evidence has been put forward as to how they will impact on the man’s right to a fair trial.

He added: “If that is being put forward there should be some evidence of how that fits into the trial process.”

He said the height of the case seems to be that the Deputy Justice Minister described Mr Celmer as a criminal and as being associated with the “drug mafia”.

He also accepted that the Polish minister had “deprecated” the Irish courts in inappropriate terms, but, he added: “It is difficult to see how that impacts on his fair trial rights.”

Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly previously referred the Celmer case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) due to concerns over political interference in the Polish courts.

The ECJ ruled last week that to refuse extradition, the Irish court must be satisfied that there is a specific risk to Mr Celmer’s right to a fair trial in Poland. If such a risk exists, the High Court must then ask the Polish authorities for further information to give them a chance to address any concerns raised.

Mr Farrell said no specific threat to Mr Celmer’s rights has been raised and therefore further information cannot be sought from the Polish authorities at this point. He said it is not enough just to point to systemic problems in Poland.

Mr Guerin said that it has already been accepted that changes to the Polish system, including one that makes the Minister for Justice the public prosecutor, will impact on his client. He also referred to the comments by Minister Warchoł.

Ms Justice Donnelly said she has not yet decided whether to ask Poland for more information and asked the parties to return to court on Wednesday. A full hearing in relation to Mr Celmer’s extradition will take place on 2 October.

The Polish government has been accused of interference in the appointment of judges and other “reforms” that the European Commission says have enabled political interference in the composition, powers, administration and functioning of the judiciary.

In December, the Commission triggered Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, calling on Poland to rectify attacks on the impartiality of the judiciary. That process is ongoing amid widespread criticism of changes to the Polish legal process.

Eoin Reynolds, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.