Communist-era official gets suspended prison term over martial law in Poland

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish court on Thursday handed a two-year suspended prison term to a communist-era interior minister for his role in implementing martial law in Poland in 1981.

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish court on Thursday handed a two-year suspended prison term to a communist-era interior minister for his role in implementing martial law in Poland in 1981.

The verdict is the latest effort by democratic Poland to hold communist-era officials accountable for abuses during their rule.

The Warsaw Provincial Court found retired Gen. Czeslaw Kiszczak guilty on charges of membership in an armed criminal group that illegally declared the clampdown, aimed at crushing the Solidarity freedom movement, and violated the freedom of many Poles. The 86-year-old Kiszczak was absent from court.

Former president and Solidarity founder, Lech Walesa, reacted by saying that “full justice is not possible,” and that the main point of such trials is “not to punish, but to draw conclusions for the future.”

“It is important that the matter was closed and we can move on,” said the 1983 Nobel Peace Laureate.

The reading of the verdict was delayed by 90 minutes when a group of unruly activists with pictures of martial law victims and chants of “Murderer” filled the courtroom before the session. The court ordered the leader of the disturbance, former lawmaker Adam Slomka, to serve a 14-day prison term for obstructing the proceedings.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel also acquitted former communist party leader Stanislaw Kania, because he resigned the position months before martial law was declared, and dropped the charges against a top party member, Eugenia Kempara, who did not have any active role in preparing the move.

The court said that Kiszczak, while a member of the then-communist government, used the state structures and armed forces to have thousands of Solidarity freedom movement activists imprisoned and beaten up, in some cases. Some 100 people lost their lives, among them nine miners, shot by the police, when they protested the clampdown.

Kiszczak’s prison term was suspended for five years and is subject to appeal.

He had demanded the charges be dropped, arguing that he considered the issue of responsibility for martial law closed after a special parliamentary commission decided in 1996 it did not qualify for a special court for top leaders, the State Tribunal.

The trial opened in 2008, after investigators of the state National Remembrance Institute charged Kiszczak, former communist leader Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and seven others with breaking the law when they declared martial law on Dec. 13, 1981. It was lifted in late 1983.

Jaruzelski, 88, who is sick with cancer, was excluded from the case due to ill health last summer, as were three others. Two other defendants have died.

Despite the martial law attempt, Solidarity nonetheless prevailed and led the way to a peaceful transfer to democracy in 1989.

Jaruzelski argues the clampdown prevented Soviet intervention. He says Moscow was planning to invade, to crush Solidarity, seeing it a source of potential trouble and of Poland’s economic downturn at the time.

In a separate trial last year, Kiszczak was acquitted on charges of involvement in the deaths of the nine miners who protested martial law in the Wujek coal mine.

Just Posted

Pioneer life at Red Deer museum

Sunnybrook Farm Museum teaches students

Red Deer College student receives scholarship

Funding from Canadian Hearing Society

Central Alberta school districts are graded on their no-smoking policies

ASH wants them to tighten restrictions on tobacco, vaping, as well as cannabis

Free film shown in Red Deer Thursday to celebrate Recovery Day

A free film will be shown in Red Deer on Thursday about… Continue reading

Calder School takes shape in Red Deer

Sunnybrook Farm Museum’s latest addition

Hushing my buzz: Alberta finance minister says cannabis warehouse will be secret

EDMONTON — Alberta is starting to stockpile marijuana but isn’t saying where… Continue reading

Relatives mourn death of Calgary-area woman killed by pet dog protecting child

CALGARY — Relatives of a Calgary-area woman killed by her own pet… Continue reading

Florence death toll climbs to 37; Trump visits stricken area

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The death toll from Hurricane Florence climbed to at… Continue reading

Toronto election proceeding with 25 wards after court sides with province

TORONTO — Ontario’s top court has sided with the provincial government in… Continue reading

Scheer welcomes former Liberal MP Alleslev to Conservative caucus

OTTAWA — Andrew Scheer is trying to fire up his Conservative troops… Continue reading

Trudeau says Canada wants to see ‘movement’ before signing revised NAFTA deal

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled today that Canada wants more… Continue reading

Uber driver suing Bucs’ QB Winston over groping incident

PHOENIX — A female Uber driver in Arizona is suing Tampa Bay… Continue reading

Thousands of fans request grand jury probe of Prince’s death

MINNEAPOLIS — Thousands of Prince fans are asking federal authorities to open… Continue reading

Most Read