July 24, 2017 / 7:28 AM / a month ago

Head of Polish constitutional court sees no threat in judicial reform

People gather during a protest against the Supreme Court legislation in Wroclaw, Poland, July 23, 2017. Agencja Gazeta/Mieczyslaw Michalak via REUTERS

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's Constitutional Tribunal President Julia Przylebska said that she sees no threat to the division of powers in an overhaul of the judicial system that has brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in protest.

Senators of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party passed a bill that would remove all Supreme Court judges except those hand-picked by the justice minister. Critics say the laws will undermine judicial independence.

Now President Andrzej Duda is to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it - as the opposition and protesters demand - or send it to the Constitutional Tribunal, which PiS overhauled last year, drawing domestic opposition and criticism from the European Union.

"I see no threat to the division of powers in Poland," Przylebska, who was appointed by Duda last year, told state TV last night, according to state news agency PAP.

Przylebska said three bills overhauling the judiciary system recently approved by parliament will improve Polish courts.

Duda is to deliver a statement at 0800 GMT. Then he will meet the president of the top court, as well the head of the National Council of the Judiciary.

The overhaul of the judiciary, coupled with a drive by PiS to expand its powers in other areas, has provoked a crisis in relations with the European Union and sparked one of the biggest street protests since Poland overthrew communism in 1989.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Anna Koper, editing by Larry King

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