Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger touched on Poland's controversial judicial reforms at a concert in Warsaw on Sunday, after former president Lech Walesa urged the band to support Poles "defending freedom" against court changes that critics say undermine democracy.
Thousands of Poles protested this past week against a law passed by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government that has forced dozens of senior judges to retire early.
"I'm too old to be a judge, but I'm young enough to sing," Jagger said, speaking in Polish, according to a Periscope recording of the concert posted by Poland's liberal Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“You know we came to Poland a long time ago in 1967,” Jagger then said in English, referring to the Stones’ first concert in Poland that made them one of the first western bands to perform behind the Iron Curtain.
He also said he hoped Poles had learned since communist times, Gazeta Wyborcza reported.
The European Union has criticised the law forcing the early retirement of judges as a threat to the country’s judicial independence and the separation of powers in a democracy.
Mr Walesa, who won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize as leader of the Solidarity trade union, told the Stones in a Saturday Facebook post that "bad things are happening in Poland right now".
“Many people in Poland are defending freedom, but they need support. If you can say or do anything while in Poland, it would really mean something to them,” Mr Walesa, the country’s first post-communist president, said in the post addressed to “Mr Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones”.
His appeal followed turmoil over the forced early retirement of Poland supreme court’s chief justice Malgorzata Gersdorf, who has rejected the move that cuts short her six-year term as unconstitutional.
European judicial authorities backed Ms Gersdorf on Friday, urging the PiS to restore judicial independence.
The EU launched legal action against Poland last Monday over the retirement rules that could end up in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the bloc's top tribunal.
But the PiS has refused to back down despite the EU legal action, insisting the reforms are needed to tackle corruption and overhaul a judicial system still haunted by the communist era.
In December, the EU triggered Article Seven proceedings against Poland over "systemic threats" to the rule of law, which could result in Warsaw's EU voting rights being suspended.
Tens of thousands of Poles have hit the streets since the PiS came to power in 2015, protesting against its judicial reforms and attempts to tighten Poland's strict abortion law, among other causes.