Friday, November 09, 2007

Polish Ex-Deputy PM Charged in Sex Case

Polish prosecutors charged a former deputy prime minister Thursday with soliciting sex from two women who worked for his party, the latest development in a scandal that shook the outgoing government of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Andrzej Lepper, 53, head of the agrarian and populist Self Defense party, was questioned for more than two hours by prosecutors in the central city of Lodz before he was charged with two counts of soliciting sex from employees in 2001 and 2002, said Krzysztof Kopania, a spokesman for prosecutors.

Lepper, who could face up to eight years in prison if convicted, has denied the charges, Kopania said. He was released on $20,000 bail.

The allegations against Lepper and another party leader, Stanislaw Lyzwinski, surfaced in December 2006, when a woman who worked for the party said in a newspaper interview that she had had sex with both men in exchange for a political job.

At the time of the interview, Lepper served as a deputy prime minister and agriculture minister in Kaczynski's government. He was, however, not yet in government at the time of the alleged wrongdoing.

Although Lepper was fired in the summer on unrelated corruption allegations, the sex scandal proved an embarrassment to the government and is seen as a factor that contributed to the coalition's eventual collapse and triggered early elections.

In that balloting, held Oct. 21, Kaczynski's nationalist Law and Justice party lost to pro-business Civic Platform party.

Self Defense was also ousted from parliament after failing to garner the required 5 percent of the vote.