Police in Poland raid offices of center monitoring racism and xenophobia

Katarzyna Markusz

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Police raided the offices of the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior in Warsaw.

The search by police on Friday came at the request of the Bialystok prosecutors’ office, which said it was undertaken in order to “find documentation on activity related to the commission of offenses.”

“This is an attempt to intimidate a non-governmental organization, which is obviously uncomfortable,” said Konrad Dulkowski, a member of the audit committee of the Association of Trzyrzecze Theatre, which is run by the center, in an interview with the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper.

The anti-racism group said on Facebook it operates legally and accused Poland of “turning into a police state.”

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Police also raided the homes of some of the board members, and reportedly seized computers and cell phones.

The raids are part of an investigation in Bialystok into fraud, counterfeiting of documents and other offenses, and involved the theater opened by the center, Lukasz Janyst, a spokesman for prosecutors in Bialystok, told reporters.

According to the official database of NGO organizations, the Trzyrzecze Theatre board has only one member, Rafal Piotr Gawel. On Thursday, the Białystok appellate court opened a case against Gawel, in which he is accused of fraud in the amount of $200,000. He did not appear in the court.

In July 2016 the Bialystok district court sentenced Gawel to four years in prison for fraud. The next hearing before the appellate court will take place on March 6.

The investigation, which spurred the search on Friday, started as a result of new information that came out during the trial in the district court.

“The Prosecutor’s Office in Bialystok is leading an investigation into the falsification of dozens of documents, making a series of scams and attempted scams which took place in connection with the activities of the Association of Trzyrzecze Theatre based in Warsaw,” and previously based in Bialystok, Janyst said in a statement.

Dulkowski in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza said that the Association’s debt is due to the revoking of a grant by Bialystok city council. Bialystokonline.pl website reported that the judgment was based on the fact that Gawel “took loans, despite the fact that he realized that the collectability of receivables was small.”

According to the database of NGOs, Trzyrzecze Theater also has tax arrears.

The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, which has cooperated with the center since November, has not yet issued a statement on the matter.

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