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Trial of Polish communist leader to resume

Latest update : 2008-06-30

A Polish court ordered the trial of communist-era leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski to continue, thereby overturning a previous decision to halt proceedings until further evidence is collected.

A Polish court Monday ordered the resumption of the trial of communist-era leader General Wojciech Jaruzelski, rejecting an earlier ruling that the case be halted while Cold War figures including Mikhail Gorbachev were questioned.
  
The Warsaw appeals court overturned a May 14 decision by a lower tribunal, which had stopped proceedings and ordered prosecutors to collect more evidence  against Jaruzelski and two co-accused over the communist regime's 1981 declaration of martial law.
  
The appeals court said Monday that the evidence already gathered was sufficient and that the May ruling had been "unrealistic".
  
Last month's ruling had marked a temporary victory for Jaruzelski's defence lawyers, who have tried to undermine the prosecution case by arguing that investigators are failing to consider properly the idea that martial law may have been justified because of the tensions of the Cold War era.
  
Besides former Soviet leader Gorbachev, prosecutors were ordered under the now-overturned ruling to question former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to then-US president Jimmy Carter.
  
Jaruzelski, now 84, was leader of communist Poland and the ruling Polish United Workers' Party in the 1980s.
  
His co-accused are former party boss Stanislaw Kania and ex-interior minister Czeslaw Kiszczak.
  
Since communism fell in Poland in 1989, Jaruzelski has faced a string of courtroom battles over his record in office.
  
In April last year he was formally charged with "communist crimes" for declaring martial law on December 13, 1981 in a bid to stamp out a 17-month challenge to his regime from Solidarity, the independent trade union led by Lech Walesa.
  
Jaruzelski faces up to 10 years in jail if he is found guilty of "having led an armed organisation of a criminal character".
  
Thousands of arrests followed the 1981 crackdown and dozens of people were killed in clashes.
  
Earlier this year, Jaruzelski told a hearing that he assumed "full responsibility for imposing martial law".
  
Jaruzelski maintains that he chose the lesser of two evils, claiming that if Solidarity had brought about the collapse of communism in Poland, a bloody Soviet military intervention would have followed.
  
Jaruzelski's attempt to crush Solidarity was only a short-term success. The movement went underground, and in 1989 the general struck a power-sharing deal, marking the end of communist rule in Poland.
  
Jaruzelski nonetheless remained president until 1990, when Poles elected Walesa in the country's first free national vote.
  

Date created : 2008-06-30

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