Polish prosecutors probe whether democracy icon Lech Walesa gave false testimony in spy case

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 10:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 10:20am

Polish prosecutors on Tuesday said they were looking into whether freedom icon Lech Walesa gave false testimony regarding allegations he collaborated with the communist secret police in the early 1970s.

Walesa, who co-founded the independent Solidarity trade union and then negotiated a bloodless end to communism in Poland in 1989, is a vocal opponent of the governing right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, which he says is harming Poland.

The state-run Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which prosecutes crimes from the Nazi and communist eras, said in a statement that it has been probing the Nobel Peace laureate’s testimony since June 29.

“The new proceedings concern statements by Lech Walesa, who notably... described as inauthentic” secret police documents that suggest he had collaborated, the IPN said.

The IPN said earlier this year that handwriting analysis proved the 73-year-old former president had signed a collaboration agreement and receipts for payment from the secret police using the code-name “Bolek”.

Walesa has always denied the allegations, which have dogged him for years.

“The president stands by his statement that the documents are fake and weren’t authored by him,” Walesa associate Adam Dominski told the Polish news agency PAP on Tuesday in response to the IPN statement.

He added that the handwriting analysis was expert analysis, not proof.

A special vetting court ruled in 2000 that there was no basis to suspicions that Walesa had been a paid regime agent.

But the allegations resurfaced last year after the IPN seized previously unknown secret police files from the widow of a communist-era interior minister.

Walesa enigmatically admitted last year to having “made a mistake” and in the past said he signed “a paper” for the secret police during one of his many interrogations.

A book published by the IPN in 2008 alleged that while the regime registered Walesa as a secret agent in 1970, he was cut loose in 1976 due to his “unwillingness to co-operate”.

Poles in general have mixed feelings about Walesa. His boldness in standing up to the communist regime is still widely respected, but the combative and divisive tone of his later presidency earned him scorn in many quarters.