Polish writer Jakub Zulczyk is facing up to three years behind bars for calling President Andrzej Duda a “moron” in a critical Facebook post, Polish media report.
In his Facebook post written after the US presidential election, Zulczyk commented on a tweet by Duda in which the president congratulated Joe Biden on a “successful presidential campaign”, adding that Poland was awaiting “a nomination by the Electoral College”.
The grudging tweet, merely acknowledging the success of Biden's campaign, was symptomatic of the Polish rightwing government’s attitude to the president-elect, whose defeat of Trump – whom Warsaw idolized – came as an unwelcome development.
“I have never heard of a "nomination by the Electoral College" in the US election process. Biden won … The president-elect in the US is ‘announced’ by news agencies, there is no central body or office that does it … Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States. Andrzej Duda is a moron,” Zulczyk wrote. He is a graduate of American studies.
Zulczyk now faces charges for violating an article in the Polish criminal code that says “whoever insults the President of the Republic of Poland in public shall be subject to the penalty of the deprivation of liberty for up to three years.”
Zulczyk has refrained from commenting on the charges brought against him by Warsaw’s prosecutor’s office.
“Whether I plead guilty or not, I will tell the court first and then the media,” Zulczyk wrote in another Facebook post.
Some commentators have joked on social media on how the court case might proceed.
"I'm not sure which way the burden of proof runs with this one, but either Jakub Żulczyk is going to have to prove that President Duda is a moron, or President Duda is going to have to prove that he isn't a moron. Either way, I'm sure this will be an edifying spectacle," political scientist Ben Stanley tweeted.
Since the case was headlined by a pro-government news website wpolityce.pl, it has reverberated in most Polish media and some major international ones, like the BBC, invariably putting the alleged insult in headlines.
It appears unlikely that Zulczyk will actually receive a prison sentence. Similar cases in the past resulted in offenders receiving the penalty of community service. One case involved a man who drew a penis on a Duda election poster.
Another, earlier, case involved a man who created a computer game in which one shot at the image of Duda’s predecessor Bronislaw Komorowski.
It is also not clear if President Duda even knows about the case – or knew about it before it made headlines in Poland and globally – as it was reportedly brought to the prosecution by a private citizen.
Despite criticism, Poland keeps some contentious laws on insults and defamation in its criminal code. Recently, three women were acquitted of charges of “offending religious feelings”, which the prosecution argued they had done in their drawing of a rainbow halo on pictures of the Virgin Mary. The women were thus protesting against the Catholic Church's attacks on the LGBTQ people in Poland.