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Hearing in the case of an artist from Łódź

On Monday, 18 July, the court heard the case of Krzysztof Kuszej, an artist from Łódź. Kuszej is a 47-year-old graduate of The Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź who earns his living as a computer graphic designer and paints in his spare time. In some of his works, Mr. Kuszej deals with social issues that are often controversial in nature.Kuszej chose the problem of paedophilia in the Catholic Church as the theme of some of his paintings, intending to ‘bring the marginalized problem of paedophilia in the Catholic Church to light’. To this end, the artist painted a series of works displaying faces of children, cassock-clad figures, religious symbols and naturalistically shown genitals of adults and children. Each painting was inscribed with a place-name in Poland where cases of child abuse were reported, the initial of the abusing priest and the name of the molested child. Mr. Kuszej placed his paintings on a self-administered website and offered them for sale on Allegro, an auction site, for PLN 5,000 each. According to press reports, the artist also uploaded his poem about paedophilia. The work itself was commented on in some media sources as ‘of a paedophilic nature’.

In October 2010, detectives of the Criminal Investigation Unit of the Provincial Police Department in Łódź arrested Mr. Kuszej at his apartment-study. During the search the police officers seized twenty paintings and the suspect’s computer. The artist was detained in the Łódź jail for twenty-four hours.

On the next day a prosecutor with the Regional Prosecution Office Łódź Śródmieście charged Mr. Kuszej with three offences, namely the propagation and endorsement of paedophilic content, the public display of pornographic content and the production, distribution, display, storing and possession of pornographic content containing created or processed images of minors engaged in sexual acts. These offences carry the penalties of a fine, limitation of liberty or deprivation of liberty for up to two years.

Later, the spokesperson for the Circuit Prosecutor’s Office in Łódź announced that another count had been added to the list of allegations, and that the defendant would also answer for the public reading of a poem ‘propagating paedophilic behaviour’. The prosecution service informed the press of their intention to appoint an expert whose task would be to decide whether the paintings of Krzysztof Kuszej ‘are pornography or art’.

Pursuant to Article 202 § 4b of the Criminal Code, whoever produces, distributes, displays, stores or possesses pornographic content containing created or processed images of minors engaged in sexual acts shall be subject to a fine, the penalty of limitation of liberty or the penalty of deprivation of liberty for up to two years.

Media sources reported that the Court decided to return the case to the prosecutor and ordered him to remedy the inadequacies of the pre-trial investigation. The case is included in the HFHR Strategic Litigation Programme. Mr. Kuszej is represented by advocate Wojciech Dobkowski, acting pro bono.

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