Sun, Jan 16, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Corruption probe seeking access to secret state files


A Polish parliament panel investigating allegations of high-level bribery broadened its mission this week, demanding the release of communist-era secret files on President Aleksander Kwasniewski and 31 other officials. The motion was brought by a right-wing lawmaker, Roman Giertych, who said his League of Polish Families was "leading a political struggle to cleanse the public life of former agents and collaborators."

Poland -- unlike some parts of the former Soviet bloc -- has waged no all-out public effort to identify and remove communist-era collaborators from political life, but a drive has been building slowly to purge the country of remnants of its former regime.

The efforts brought about the resignation last week of the parliament speaker, Jozef Oleksy, after a screening court found that he had illegally concealed his collaboration with communist secret services. It has also led to recent allegations that Malgorzata Niezabitowska, a Solidarity activist and spokeswoman for Poland's first democratically elected government, passed on information to secret police. She acknowledges speaking to police once, but said she passed on no vital information and denies ever having been an agent.

On Friday, it remained unclear whether or when Poland's National Remembrance Institute -- which has custody of secret files from the communist era -- would grant the request to open the files on Kwasniewski, a former communist, and the 31 others, including Prime Minister Marek Belka.

The institute's director, Leon Kieres, said he had received no formal request, but noted that the commission has the legal right to seek the files -- suggesting he might comply.

The request came from a parliamentary panel set up months ago to investigate the so-called Orlen affair -- a complex web of claims that include allegations Kwasniewski used his position to influence the sell-off of a state-owned oil refinery to Russians.

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