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Thousands of Poles Take To Streets To Protest Judicial Reforms

Demonstrators protest in front of the parliament building in Warsaw on July 16 against new legislation that reorganizes Poland’s judiciary-

Thousands of Poles rallied in the capital Warsaw on July 16 in protest against judicial reforms that critics say infringe on the independence of judges and undermine democratic principles.

The reforms, approved on July 14, give lawmakers more say in the appointment of judges, a violation of the constitution's separation of powers, according to opposition deputies. The bill won passage in parliament on the back of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party's majority.

The PiS has also introduced legislation that would replace all Supreme Court judges, except those chosen by the justice minister. The party says the reforms will make the judiciary more efficient and accountable to the public.

"Today we know that a great fight has begun and we know we must be together, we know we must fight against them together," Grzegorz Schetyna, leader of the largest political grouping, the Civic Platform, told the crowd during the rally.

Police estimated the crowd at about 4,500, a number far lower than city hall estimates, which put the number above 10,000. Smaller protests took place in other Polish cities such as Krakow and Katowice.

An overhaul of the constitutional court and increased control over the prosecutor-general’s office by the Justice Ministry have raised eyebrows abroad.

The European Union has called the new legislation undemocratic and has threatened to take Poland to court.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and PAP