Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Warsaw and cities across Poland for candle-lit vigils to protest against a bill to overhaul Poland’s Supreme Court.
Some protesters carried Polish and European Union flags, chanting “free courts”.
Poland’s upper house of parliament debated the bill into the night and finally approved it, defying the European Union and critics at home who say the legislation would undermine democratic checks and balances.
To become law, the proposal still has to be signed by President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party, who say new legislation is needed to make the judiciary accountable and efficient.
But the opposition and judge’s groups in Poland as well as critics in Brussels say the legislation is a new step by the Polish government towards authoritarianism.
The United States, Poland’s most important ally in NATO, issued a statement urging Poland to ensure any changes respect the constitution.
“We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers,” it said in a statement.