Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MEPs denounce Polish 'witch hunt'

Members of the European Parliament have denounced as "a scandal" a threat by the Polish government to strip a leading Polish MEP of his mandate.
Bronislaw Geremek, a former dissident, is refusing to submit a declaration that he did not co-operate with the communist-era secret police.

He is required to do so by a Polish law which entered into force on 15 March.

One MEP said Poland's behaviour was an "absolute scandal". Another described it as "Stalinist".

The president of the parliament, German MEP Hans-Gert Poettering, said he would examine all legal possibilities that would allow Mr Geremek to continue his work in the parliament.

Polish election officials have already written to Mr Geremek warning that his mandate will be revoked, if he does not comply with the law.

'Secret web'

The measure is part of a push by President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, to screen professors, journalists and politicians for past collaboration.

Mr Geremek, 75, a former foreign minister and member of the parliament's Liberal group, says he has already made a declaration that he did not work as an informant when he ran for election to the European Parliament three years ago.

He said the new law threatened freedom of speech and created "a kind of ministry of truth".

The leader of the Liberal group, Graham Watson, said Mr Geremek "rightly objects to the witch-hunt his government seeks".

Green leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit said: "If the [Polish] government uses Stalinist or fascist methods, we must defend our colleagues against all loonies."

The Kaczynskis say Poland is infiltrated by a "web" of ex-communists and secret police who went into business and other areas of public life in the years after 1989, when the country's first post-communist government was formed.