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UPDATE 1-Dutch court casts doubt on Polish judiciary in drug case

(Updates with details on rule of law issue)

AMSTERDAM, July 31 (Reuters) - A Dutch court cast doubt on the independence of Poland’s legal system on Friday in a request for a ruling from the top European Union tribunal over the possible extradition of a suspected Polish drug trafficker.

Polish rule of law has become an increasing matter of dispute within the EU, as critics say the ruling nationalist government has undue influence over judicial appointments.

The International Chamber of Amsterdam’s District Court said it did not believe Polish courts were independent of government and it would not extradite the suspect until the EU Court of Justice told it to.

In April, the EU executive opened a case against Poland’s government over muzzling judges. That came after Poland had passed a new law making it possible to punish judges who criticize the system.

“These developments harm the independence of the Polish judiciary so much that it cannot operate independently of the Polish government and parliament,” the Dutch court said in a statement.

Warsaw is seeking the extradition of a 32-year-old Polish man arrested in the Netherlands on suspicion of smuggling 200 kg of marijuana and other drugs into Poland. The court did not release his name, following Dutch privacy law.

Poland’s government, led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, says that its reforms have been necessary to remove a residue of communist influence from the judicial system and to make courts more efficient and fair. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki argues that the judicial reforms are a national, not EU, matter. (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Edmund Blair and Andrew Cawthorne)

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