The Court of Appeals in Lublin today postponed the verdict in the case of Pastor Pawel Chojecki, editor-in-chief of the Go Against the Tide TV station, in his trial for words including those insulting the religious feelings of Catholics. The verdict is expected to be announced on June 5 at 1:00 p.m. The court did not take into account the fact that Pastor Chojecki has a planned evangelistic trip abroad to the United States at the time. After the hearing, the pastor spoke about his dream: “My dream and plan is that on the basis of my trial […] a socio-political movement will be created for all people who understand freedom […]. We want everyone […] to be able to speak freely about their beliefs, to also be able to criticize my views as they wish. We are going for freedom!”
After the hearing, Pastor Chojecki prayed for a while with those who had gathered in great numbers to support him. Many people had T-shirts with signs expressing support for the pastor and banners about freedom. There was also singing and praising God together. Go Against the Tide TV covered the events outside the court live the entire time.
Among the guests on the program were MP Artur Dziambor and MP Pawel Szramka. Both expressed support for the pastor and their belief that he should be acquitted.
“I hope that Pastor Chojecki will be acquitted. I promise that I will strive to ensure that the article that talks about insulting religious feelings [Article 196 of the Penal Code]and other articles about state intervention where there is a civil sphere, to be deleted from Polish law,” said MP Dziambor.
MP Szramka, head of the Good Move party, also spoke about an MP interpellation submitted to the Minister of Justice, in which, among other things, he describes the case of Pastor Chojecki and notes the need to at least relax some of the laws.
In a brief speech after the trial, Pastor Chojecki commented:
“I will not be at the announcement of the verdict. But I hope you will be! […] What the Law and Justice prosecution has done is a disgrace, a crime. […] No more pastor for the next dozen years will be able to boldly speak the truth about superstition, about darkness, about religious abuse […], because he will know that the prosecutor’s office […] can do such wickedness. This cannot be undone. But it can be covered – in two ways. The first is a just verdict. The second is something more – we want to see a free Poland! We want everyone: atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Orthodox Jehovah’s Witness, Protestant, everyone – to be able to speak freely about their beliefs, to be able to criticize also my views as they wish. […] We are going for freedom!”
“My dream and plan is that on the basis of my process […] there will be a socio-political movement for all people who understand freedom, freedom not only for themselves […]. I think that this process has triggered in every decent person some mechanism of disagreement: “I may not like what he says, I may not agree with him, he may have exaggerated or offended me in places – but what they did to him is a disgrace.” – said Pastor Pavel Chojecki after leaving the court.
Closing statements were delivered in court today. The defenders pointed out the irregularities of the legal aspects of the prosecution and the court of first instance, and stressed that Pastor Chojecki’s trial is the trial of a representative of a religious minority accused for what he preaches. Thus, it also has the dimension of shaping how a religious minority is treated in Poland.
Let’s recall some facts about the trial
The pastor of the New Covenant Church in Lublin and editor-in-chief of the Go Against the Tide TV is on trial for words uttered during sermons and in programs aired on the television he’d founded. The prosecutor’s office accused him of insulting the religious feelings of Catholics, insulting Catholic objects of religious reverence, praising the initiation of a forward war against communist North Korea, and insulting the Polish Nation and the President of Poland.
The pastor addressed all charges in a special statement issued at the beginning of the trial.
The court of first instance sentenced Pastor Chojecki to eight months of restriction of liberty in the form of community service and ordered him to pay legal costs of nearly PLN 21,000. Four appeals have been filed to the verdict. In Pastor Chojecki’s defense, the law firm of legal counsel Adam Wroblewski, the law firm of attorney Andrzej Sawicki and the law firm of attorney Andrzej Turczyn filed an appeal. Prosecutor Katarzyna Urban also filed an appeal, seeking a prison sentence.