Statue of Polish priest accused of sex abuse to be removed

Warsaw (AFP) –


The statue of a Solidarity-era Polish priest accused of sex abuse will be permanently removed from a public square, city authorities in the port of Gdansk decided on Thursday, despite objections from supporters.

Claims of abuse against the late Father Henryk Jankowski resurfaced in December when liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza published an article reviving allegations that had first surfaced years ago.

Gdansk Mayor Aleksandra Dulkiewicz said she saw only "one possible decision", speaking ahead of Thursday's city hall vote to remove the statue.

Jankowski, who died in 2010, had faced long-standing accusations of paedophilia.

An investigation into allegations of sex abuse by Jankowski against young boys and girls was opened but shelved in 2004.

Activists toppled the statue last month and then draped it with underwear and altar boy's clothing.

The incident occurred several hours before the opening of a landmark Vatican summit on fighting child abuse within the Catholic Church.

Supporters of the priest, including conservatives and Solidarity union representatives, then restored it to its plinth.

The three men arrested over toppling the statue face up to five years in prison.

Late last year activists also daubed red paint on the hands of the privately-financed statue.

Jankowski was a close aide to Lech Walesa during the Gdansk shipyard strikes in 1980 led by the anti-communist Solidarity movement and which led to the creation of Poland's first free trade union.

It went on to play a pivotal role in toppling communism in 1989.

After the regime fell, Jankowski's reputation was tarnished amid claims by some former associates that he was a nationalist with anti-European and anti-Semitic tendencies.