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Vandals damage Muslim center in Warsaw amid rise of far-right

Police gather evidence after unknown perpetrators broke windows at the Muslim Cultural Center in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017.
AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski
At a far-right march earlier this month, people chanted: "Pure Poland, white Poland" and "Refugees get out"

Vandals smashed a dozen windows at the Muslim Cultural Center in Warsaw, which houses one of the two mosques in the Polish capital, police said Monday. 

"We didn't find any writing on the building and for now the case is being treated as property damage," said police spokeswoman Edyta Wisowska.

The incident comes after previous threats and a prior act of vandalism on the building, amid an atmosphere of intolerance that has grown since Poland's right-wing government took power in 2015. 

At a massive far-right march earlier this month in Warsaw, which was condemned by Israel, some of the participants chanted "Pure Poland, white Poland" and "Refugees get out".

The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, campaigned on a staunchly anti-refugee platform in 2015, claiming that refugees were bringing "cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasite".

Police were called to the building in the early hours of Monday. The vandals also damaged the frame of a large tent erected in the center's garden. 

Center coordinator Ahmad Alattal said anti-Muslim hate speech has been on the rise in Poland in recent years, especially since the start of Europe's migrant crisis.

AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

"We receive threats all the time by e-mail, on social media and also by telephone," Alattal added. "A month and a half ago we had a similar, but smaller incident. A glass bottle was broken against a window on the front door."

"The only response we have received from the Polish authorities was from the Senate Chancellor saying that it understood our fear but that our worries were unfounded," he added. 

Probe into mock executions

The damage at the center came as the country's justice minister announced an investigation Monday after mocked-up pictures of opposition MEPs hanging on gallows were allegedly unfurled at a nationalist demonstration on Saturday.

Zbigniew Ziobro said on public radio that a preliminary inquiry into the incident at the southern city of Katowice will be launched, pending steps to verify what occurred.

Six MEPs from the Civic Platform (PO) opposition party voted in favour of a resolution adopted on November 15 by the European Parliament denouncing judicial reforms in Poland as a threat to the fundamental values of the European Union.

The six were later accused by the ruling conservatives of acting "against their country".

In addition, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani announced Monday that he would ask Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo to "ensure the security of elected members of the European Parliament".

Such members must be able "to express their opinions independently, without threat and oppose those who spread hatred by exhibiting outrageous pictures of hanged politicians," he wrote on Twitter.

The leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, campaigned on a staunchly anti-refugee platform in 2015, claiming that refugees were bringing "cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna, various types of parasite".

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