Sunday, September 23, 2007

Poland Publishes Secret Police File Data

In its latest effort to deal with its communist past, Poland on Tuesday began publishing a list of public figures who either collaborated with or were spied on by its old secret police before 1989.

There was so great an interest in the list — an index to the vast files at the Institute of National Remembrance — that institute's Web site was difficult to access as the publication time of 8 p.m. came and went, but spokesman Andrzej Arseniuk confirmed publication had begun.

The first list was made public weeks before general elections on Oct. 21, balloting sought by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the governing Law and Justice party after months of political turmoil with smaller coalition partners.

The first group of names posted on the Web site focused on public figures and included, among others, the file indexes of the prime minister and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, as two people who were spied on. Also on the list were the speakers of Parliament and the Senate, but otherwise most candidates in the coming election were deliberately left off.

The institute said it was just beginning the process of publication, which could take up to six years.

It was acting on a new law calling for public figures to be screened for past collaboration. A special court this year called for the index to be published.

Polish officials decided against a wholesale purge of communists immediately after the collapse of the old regime in 1989, but the issue has not gone away. Some people have been wrongly accused or smeared for political purposes, but others say Poland has not done enough to rid itself of Communist influence.

"This is an index saying what kind of documents the institute has on various categories of public figures from the president to county officials," Andrzej Paczkowski, a member of the institute's board, told The Associated Press.

"It makes no difference in the character of their appearance: they can be targets, collaborators or secret security employees," he said.

The PAP news agency reported the entries of the prime minister and the president, indicating they were targets of the secret police — something already well-known, since the Kaczynskis in the 1980s were dissidents and advisers to the Solidarity trade union and pro-democracy movement. Lech Kaczynski was jailed after martial law was declared in 1981.

The institute said it went ahead with publication to meet the conditions of the law, despite concerns about the coming election. The prime minister has made purging former communists from public life a key goal of this government, and a court struck down provisions of the disclosure law that would have barred people such as journalists and teachers from their professions if they were found to have collaborated.