Poland marked the 25th anniversary yesterday of the martial law crackdown by communist-era authorities as prosecutors push ahead with their controversial case against the former leader who imposed it.
General Wojciech Jaruzelski launched martial law on Dec. 13, 1981, and outlawed the Solidarity trade union, which was pushing for economic reforms and democracy. Thousands went to jail, including Poland's current president, Lech Kaczynski, and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.
The crackdown remains a topic of public debate to this day, with Jaruzelski defending the move as the only way to forestall an invasion by the Soviet Union.
In March, the Institute for National Remembrance, a state body that investigates communist-era crimes, charged Jaruzelski with violating the constitution by imposing the crackdown and the jailing of tens of thousands of people.
The left-wing government of former communists ousted in elections in September last year had been reluctant to bring charges over martial law; the new government of Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Lech's twin, has vowed to make purging remaining communist influence a priority.
If convicted, the 83-year-old Jaruzelski could face up to 11 years in prison -- three for violating the constitution and eight for "communist crimes."
Early on Dec. 13, 1981, secret police and militia rounded up and jailed democratic activists. Tanks and armored transports rumbled through Polish cities, armed soldiers patrolled the streets, and authorities cut phone lines.
Nearly 100 people died during the crackdown, while tens of thousands of people were arrested without charge and some 10,000 held in internment camps.
Poles planned to mark yesterday's anniversary with exhibitions, lectures and prayer services for the victims.
Prosecutors have gathered some 60 volumes of documents to build their case and counter the argument that martial law saved Poland from a bloody Soviet invasion, a leading prosecutor in the investigation said.
The foreign documents, combined with Polish archives, "confirm our thesis that martial law didn't have to be imposed, but was really imposed in defense of the system at the time and not in the interests of Poles," said Ewa Koj, a prosecutor from the Katowice branch of the Institute for National Remembrance.
She noted, for example, that Soviet troops in 1981 were bogged down in a war in Afghanistan and that Soviet documents indicate the Kremlin "was not interested in an intervention [in Poland] in 1981."
Koj said the investigation is "in its final stages," and that prosecutors plan to submit a formal indictment in court against Jaruzelski by the end of March.
Left-leaning politicians assume a more cautious stance.
"No historian has presented proof that a Soviet intervention was impossible," said Jerzy Smajdzinski, parliamentary leader of the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown