Polish writer could face three years in prison for calling homophobe-in-chief Andrzej Duda a ‘moron’

Andrzej Duda considers same-sex civil partnerships

A Polish writer and journalist is facing up to three years in prison for calling president Andrzej Duda a “moron”.

Jakub Zulczyk has been charged with insulting the head of state in a Facebook post, which accused Andrzej Duda of failing to understand the US electoral process in a tweet to Joe Biden.

As world leaders celebrated Biden’s win back in November, the Polish president stopped short of recognising his victory and noted that the process was still ongoing.

“Congratulations to Joe Biden for a successful presidential campaign,” Duda tweeted on 7 November. “As we await the nomination by the Electoral College, Poland is determined to upkeep high-level and high-quality PL-US strategic partnership for an even stronger alliance.”

The message was a stark contrast from the “warmest congratulations” Andrzej Duda sent his ally Donald Trump shortly after his victory was announced in 2016.

Referring to the tweet, Jakub Zulczyk wrote that he had studied US politics with a keen interest but had “never heard of such a thing as Electoral College nomination”.

“Joe Biden is the 46th president of the USA,” he wrote, adding: “Andrzej Duda is a moron.”

That was enough to charge him under article 135 of the Poland’s criminal code, which makes it a crime to insult religion and state leaders. Text used in the post was deemed “offensive” and “unacceptable”, prosecutors said.

“I am, I suspect, the first writer in this country in a very long time to be tried for what he wrote,” Zulczyk wrote on Facebook, revealing that he first learned of the charges through the media.

Poland has nine different insult laws, the joint highest number among all European countries according to a 2017 report.

All carry potential prison terms, which are routinely weaponised against LGBT+ people as they highlight the fact that religious statues and sentiments have more legal protections than they do.

Last year three activists were arrested for “insulting religious feelings” by giving a Jesus statue a Pride makeover with an LGBT+ flag. They faced two years in prison for this act of “desecration”, as did three women who distributed posters of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo.

One of the accused, Elżbieta Podlesna, said that police raided her home, seized her possessions, detained and questioned her for several hours.

Her treatment sparked outrage and concern among international activists as the trial became a test case for freedom of speech under the country’s deeply conservative government.

Thankfully courts acquitted Podlesna earlier this month, but as Poland swings ever further to the authoritarian right under Andrzej Duda, it’s unclear whether Jakub Zulczyk and others like him will be granted the same clemency.