Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Persecution for participation in December 2000 nurses' protest
Andrew Smosarski - activist persecuted for participation in nurses' protest.

On 27th of September 2005 in Warsaw's Regional Court (IX'th penal department for appeals) a trial of Andrew Smosarski will take place. Andrew is an independent journalist, social activist and member of Red Collective - Leftist Alternative, who is charged with violating a policeman's ,,nietykalność" (immunity) during the December 2000 nurses' protest. This trial is a second instance (second level) court case - in the first instance (first level court) Andrew was sentenced to 3700 zlotys fine with a commuted to 100 days of imprisonment. There is a high risk that the verdict will remain in force.

Both the charges and the punishment that has been given by the first instance court can only be understood as repression against social and political activity - in fact, the so-called "violation of nietykalność" never took place and it is only a fabrication done by police, which was accepted by court. With false accusations and a severe sentence, the judges and police obviously want to silence social critique and threaten other activists.

Description of the event and the process

In December 2000, the All-Polands Trade Union of Midwives and Nurses organised mass rallies and demonstrations that aimed to increase the wages of that group. The protests were reactions against the very bad material and social situation of nurses and midwives - trade unions demanded raising the wages of healthcare workers by 203 zlotys per month. After many days, the demands of nurses were accepted by the government, but this was preceded by many demonstrations - that sometimes were very radical.

On 18th of December, the protesters organised a blockade of Trasa Lazienkowska (one of Warsaw's main roads). The demonstration was dispersed by the police force and demonstrators were divided into small groups, surrounded by policemen. Andrew was in one of that groups - he participated in the protest, as did many other activists of radical left and anarchist movements. Suddenly, Andrew noticed that one of the women required immediate medical treatment. Despite his requests, police officers refused to let the woman contact ambulances standing nearby.

Seeing that, the group of demonstrators, with Andrew among them, started to push forward and finally broke through the cordon of police officers in order to help the sick woman. As a result of that, Andrew and another agitator were accused of assault of a policeman (kicking him in his chest), although nothing like that had happened.

In Andrew's presence, the police officers agreed upon their own false version of the whole accident.

The trial in the first instance court ended with a sentence of 3700 zlotys fine (that means an equivalent of several months' salary to most people) commuted to 100 days of confinement. This verdict is much more serious than that demanded by the public prosecutor. And if it will be remain force, Andrew will be imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit.

The case of Andrew is another example of repressive measures that are used against independent social activists and critiques of the current situation in Poland. Repressive techniques such as "inviting" political activists to talk to the police were systematically and extensively used in:

the leadup to the April 2004 demonstrations against the European Economic Forum,
while the techniques of false charges were used in the wave of violent police repression of December 2004/January 2005,
and, for example, against the activists involved in the May 2005 demonstration against the Council of Europe meeting.
In Andrew's case, the judge didn't take in to consideration the eyewitness testimonies of the other participants of the demonstration that confirmed the Andrew's version of the event. The judge also ignored the inaccuracies in the testimonies of the policeman - who couldn't even precisely define the place of the "violation of nietykalność".

Friday, September 23, 2005

For Poles, climax of a mudslinging campaign
By Brian Lavery International Herald Tribune


WARSAW In Poland's first free parliamentary elections 14 years ago, dozens of political parties competed in the country's chaotic introduction to modern democracy. Only one received more than 12 percent of the vote.

This weekend, Poles will choose their legislators for the fifth time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the number of political factions has dropped to a more manageable number.

But the campaign, notable for personal attacks and accusations of financial improprieties, shows how the transition to democratic politics for Eastern Europe's largest economy has been far from steady.

A steady stream of opinion polls indicates that voters will reject the governing ex-Communist party, the Social Democratic Alliance led by President Alexsander Kwasniewski, in the parliamentary elections on Sunday, in favor of two centrist groups that together may claim as much as 80 percent of the total tally. The trend is expected to continue in a presidential election on Oct. 9.

Historically, that shift to the right should come as no great surprise: voters here have swung from one end of the political spectrum to the other in each legislative election since 1991; no party has ever been re-elected. Those shifts, and the campaign's focus on exposing corruption, are an essential stage in growing into a mature democracy, some political analysts say.

"Every country has its own dirt," said Leszek Jesien, a former government adviser who teaches about international integration at Tischner European University in Krakow. ''This is an emerging learning process."

Poland's dirt can be muckier than most: one presidential candidate dropped out after allegations that he had collaborated with the Soviet-era secret police. But the airing of such issues helps the country clear the skeletons from its collective closet, Jesien said, in a telephone interview.

And the shifts between left and right often are more significant on the surface than in effect, according to Jakub Boratynski, program director of the Batory Foundation, a pro-democracy research group.

"We have a basic tree of continuity in terms of economic policy and foreign policy by successive governments," he said.

Yet the discord between the two leading parties is so intense that it casts doubt on their ability to cooperate in Parliament, or perhaps even to form a government.

The pro-business Civic Platform and the more conservative Law and Justice party are in a dead heat for seats in the Parliament.

In a poll completed last Sunday, Platform's presidential candidate, the trilingual historian Donald Tusk, received 44 percent support, compared to 26 percent for his Law and Justice rival, Lech Kaczynski, the mayor of Warsaw.

Kaczynski has accused Platform of being out of touch with the needs of the poor and said he wants to implement a "moral rebirth" of Poland. Both parties must address unemployment, which is at 18 percent nationally and even higher in rural areas.

Most of both parties' leading candidates were activists with the Solidarity movement 25 years ago, meaning that the race this time is not between former Communists and former Solidarity figures, said Boratynski of the Batory Foundation.

That development is due in large part to the implosion of Kwasniewski's leftist party, which is expect to receive less than 10 percent of the vote on Sunday. The ex-Communists led Poland into the European Union last year but have been prone to scandals tied to issues like the privatization of the national oil company and television station.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Polish PM Suspected in Unipetrol Scandal

PRAGUE- Ivan Langer, deputy chairman of the senior opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), said today he suspects Polish PM Marek Belka and Zdenek Dolezel, former head of the Czech PM's office, of harming another's rights, namely the minority share holders of Czech company Unipetrol.
Langer said that the suspicion, which the police should check, is based among others on the recording of negotiations between Dolezel and Belka on Unipetrol privatisation.

Langer spoke during the question time in the Chamber of Deputies. He asked Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan to see to it that the police "immediately start an investigation into the suspicion of a crime having been committed, in which some 100,000 Unipetrol minority share holders were harmed."

"In my opinion there is a reasonable cause to suspect of this crime the Polish Republic's Prime Minister, the Polish minister of the State Treasure, the chairman of the PKN Orlen supervisory council and the (former) director of the Czech Prime Minister's office Zdenek Dolezel," Langer said.

Bublan reacted saying that the police have already been dealing with the Dolezel case.

He said he does not know whether the police will include Langer's suggestion in the ongoing investigation, or whether they will investigate it separately.

PKN Orlen bought a 63 percent stake in Unipetrol for 13.05 billion crowns last year. Corruption is suspected of having been involved in the deal.

($1=24.040 crowns)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Key witness says Babis is behind opaque Unipetrol deal

WARSAW/PRAGUE- Krzysztof Kluzek, a former member of Polish PKN Orlen management and a key witness in the alleged Unipetrol corruption scandal, told CTK today that Czech Agrofert company owner Andrej Babis is behind the recent opaque privatisation of Unipetrol, a Czech petrochemical holding.
"The course of the privatisation indicates this," said Kluzek, a former member of the supervisory board and of the management of PKN Orlen, which won the tender for Unipetrol privatisation.

In reaction to Kluzek's assertions, which he also published in the Czech press, Babis's Agrofert today announced that it is going to lodge a criminal complaint against Kluzek on suspicion of slander.

"Members of [PKN Orlen] management asserted that either Orlen will sign an agreement with Babis or it will not win [the Unipetrol tender]. This was said openly," Kluzek told CTK.

He gave no evidence to prove his assertion.

"No one would put something like that down in the contracts. However, it ensues from the developments. Still before the bids for Unipetrol purchase were submitted, [PKN Orlen signed] a contract with Agrofert. Later, all the time long, literally in every phase, [PKN Orlen] negotiated with Agrofert and discussed the price to be paid," Kluzek said.

Kluzek is a crucial witness as it was his testimony before a special commission of the Polish Sejm, which inquires into PKN Orlen's dubious deals, which raised doubts about Unipetrol privatisation transparency.

Kluzek mentioned the bribes allegedly addressed to Czech and Polish politicians. He said he heard about the bribes, worth 42 million euros altogether, from Polish lobbyist Jacek Spyra.

According to the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes, Spyra confirmed the information about the bribes to the Czech police.

The former PKN Orlen management signed a contract with Agrofert - still before Unipetrol privatisation - in which it pledged to sell stakes in five of the Unipetrol holding's firms to Babis's company.

The firms involved are Agrobohemia, Kaucuk, Aliachem, Paramo and Chemopetrol.

Babis told CTK today that the whole case "fundamentally harms me and our firm. It is highly desirable that investigators in the two countries immediately examine all facts and definitively put an end to the neverending wave of speculations and false accusations," Babis said.

He asserted that Agrofert had not participated in any corruption within Unipetrol privatisation. Neither did it attend any negotiations where any proposals or signs of corruption appeared, he said.

Agrofert lodged a criminal complaint against Spyra recently.

Agrofert was to pay about 103 million euros to PKN Orlen for the stakes in the five companies, which, however, is about one- third of their current value. The Agrofert-Orlen contract does not contain any provision to determine the final price in connection with possible changes in the firms' value after Unipetrol privatisation.

The current PKN Orlen management is therefore considering withdrawing from the contract and prefers paying a fine equivalent to more than 2 billion crowns.

"The [PKN Orlen's] approach to the matter and the signing of the contract with Agrofert indicated, already when [the Unipetrol deal] was underway, that something is not in order," Kluzek said.

He pointed to the fact alone that PKN Orlen had negotiated with Agrofert.

"What use the contract was? Orlen is a large concern. It knew that Babis has [good contacts] in the Czech Republic," Kluzek said, referring to Babis's alleged close relations to some Czech politicians.

Kluzek, nevertheless, conceded that he had not attended the Unipetrol purchase negotiations in person.

"I think that the decisive figure on the Czech side was Andrej Babis and people around him," Kluzek said.

In PKN Orlen, the main role was played by former CEO Zbigniew Wrobel and board deputy head Janusz Wisniewski, he added.

The two have been unavailable for comment.

Kluzek indicated that two years ago, when Babis was to buy Unipetrol within the first Unipetrol privatisation attempt by the then cabinet of Milos Zeman (Social Democrats, CSSD), Agrofert signed long-time contracts with it, which could now have a negative impact on PKN Orlen as Unipetrol's new owner.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mieczyslaw Wachowski, former Polish president Lech Walesa’s chief aide was taken into police custody on September 16, 2005, on suspicion of receiving bribes while holding public office. The public prosecutors suspect the aide of accepting huge bribes for pushing through legal matters concerning licenses for various business activities. Wachowski was a taxi driver turned presidential Secretary of State during the 1990-95 administration of Lech Walesa. The prosecutor’s office in Lodz suspects the former presidential aide of accepting bribes worth some $300 million from Andrzej Galkiewicz, a Polish businessmen who allegedly was looking for help in securing building permits for his supermarket located on the outskirts of the city.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Polish bribes reach Czech Republic
2005-09-13, 18:28
Czech police started enquiry concerning privatisation of the Czech petrol concern Unipetrol recently purchased by the Polish petrol giant PKN Orlen.
Czech police demanded access to documents concerning the transaction. Czech media has been very much interested in the case since one of commercial TV stations broadcast film material showing ex-director of Czech Prime Minister's office Zdenek Dolezal demanding bribe of 5 million Czech korunas (200.000 USD) from Polish lobbyist supposedly acting on behalf of the Polish company.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hundreds of soccer hooligans clashed with police overnight on September 11-12, 2005, after a fourth division match, leaving six officers injured and damaging eight police cars in the southern town of Mielec, Poland. The violence began after a fan who was being pursued by police for speeding on his motorcycle died in a crash Sunday evening. Some 500 rioters then began attacking police with paving stones. More than 200 policemen reacted by firing rubber bullets on the crowd during the five-hour clash. They also detained about 60 people.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reports link Danish telecom TDC with a Polish corruption case

Reports link Danish telecom TDC with a Polish corruption case

The name of Denmark's largest telecom operator, TDC, has been implicated in a corruption scandal in Poland, involving Polish President Aleksander Kwasnieski.

Polish newspaper Wprost reported that TDC's Polish subsidiary, mobile telephone company Polkomtel, had been extremely generous towards Kwasnieski's wife for years after receiving a license to operate a mobile telephone service in Poland in 1996.

The newspaper said Polkomtel had donated DKK 1.3 million to the First Lady's charity organization and been its main patron for years. The newspaper also pointed out that TDC's former CEO, Hans Würtzen, had visited Poland and the president couple in 1997.

TDC denied the allegations.

'Bribery simply isn't a part of our values. It's a business practice we don't use. Period,' said Torben V. Holm, vice director of TDC's business development department to Danish daily business newspaper Børsen.