Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday to protest a decision to bury Polish President Lech Kaczynski in a cathedral reserved for Poland’s kings and heroes in early signs of divisions following his death in a plane crash Saturday.
AFP - Poland faced a spiralling row Thursday over a decision to bury president Lech Kaczynski in a castle alongside past kings, a move that has sparked protests and cracked the grieving nation's unity.
Hundreds of people rallied Wednesday for a second night in cities including Warsaw and Krakow, where the divisive conservative leader and his wife will be laid to rest Sunday in the historic Wawel castle.
More than 40,000 people joined a Facebook campaign and thousands more signed a petition against the burial plan for the Kaczynskis, who were among 96 people killed when a Polish official jet crashed Saturday in Russia.
US President Barack Obama, Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev and Britain's Prince Charles are among the foreign dignitaries who are set to attend the increasingly controversial funeral.
The dispute is in stark contrast to the official eight days of mourning for the Kaczynskis and the other crash victims, who included the military top brass, the state bank governor and a Solidarity movement heroine.
Around 200 people demonstrated in central Warsaw late Wednesday and others took to the streets of the Baltic port of Gdansk, Poznan in the west, and in Krakow itself.
"I would protest no matter who they tried to bury there now, because it's a sacred place for Poles," protester Aleksandra Kozlowski said in Warsaw.
The nationalist and deeply Catholic Lech Kaczynski, in office since 2005, was a highly divisive figure at home and abroad. His identical twin, former prime minister Jaroslaw, is leader of Poland's conservative opposition.
The highly symbolic location for the burial was chosen by Kaczynski's family and the church, "without the initiative of and without state authorities taking a position," interim president Bronislaw Komorowski said Wednesday.
The castle's cathedral crypt is the resting place for several historic sovereigns including a saint. The Kaczynskis are to lie alongside Jozef Pilsudski, a revolutionary who forged the Polish republic in 1918.
Tens of thousands of people have come to pay homage to the bodies of the late president and his wife, which are lying in state in Warsaw until the funeral.
The ageing presidential jet came down in thick fog while taking the delegation to a memorial for thousands of Polish officers massacred by Soviet forces 70 years ago, still a point of contention between the two countries.
Russian investigators say the crew refused three times to heed advice to divert to another airport because of the fog. Polish officials say there is no evidence to back reports that Kaczynski pressured the crew to land.
Investigators have ruled out a fire or explosion as the cause.
Despite the burial row, Poland's political scene is likely to remain calm until after the funeral.
Komorowski said the date for early presidential elections would not be announced until April 21, but officials said they would likely be on June 20.
Komorowski, a liberal, had been expected to run against Kaczynski in elections scheduled for the autumn. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who was premier from 2006-7, may take his sibling's place but has made no public statement.
Date created : 2010-04-15