Warsaw, Poland – A Polish judge on Monday ordered a 10-month prison sentence for a man who burned the effigy of an Orthodox Jew at an anti-migrant protest last year, denouncing the man for harming the country’s international image.
Judge Marek Gorny said the man, Piotr Rybak, fomented hatred and committed an act of great social harm.
Rybak burned the symbol at an anti-migrant rally organized by a far-right group in Wroclaw, in western Poland, in November 2015.
“The harmfulness of this act was huge,” the judge said, accusing Rybak of provoking fear among Jews in Poland and elsewhere and dealing a blow to Poland’s international image.
“For years we have been fighting against the stereotype of the anti-Semitic Pole,” Gorny said. “Meanwhile, the accused, with his act, sends the world a clear message about antipathy toward Jews.”
The sentence was more severe than the 10 months of social work recommended by prosecutors.
They had argued that Rybak’s act evoked the burning of Jews during the Holocaust and should be understood as a threat of annihilation.
Rybak denounced the verdict and vowed to appeal.
“It’s chutzpah and an act against the Polish nation,” Rybak said. “It’s a disgrace that a Polish judge issued a judgment against a Polish patriot.”
Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, praised the conviction.
“The decision of the court in Wroclaw to convict a person who burned a Jew in effigy shows the commitment of Polish courts to justice and the fight against hate speech and anti-Semitism,” he told The Associated Press in an email.