Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another hearing in Self-defense sex scandal

The trial of Andrzej Lepper, leader of the Self-defence party and former MP Stanislaw Lyzwinski, continues in the court in Piotrkow Trybunalski, central Poland.

Today the court will hear the testimony of Zbigniew B. According to the prosecutor's office, between 1999-2000 Lyzwinski allegedly instigated the man's kidnapping, which was a means of forcing Zbigniew B. to pay him half a million zlotys for alleged inconsistencies in a business they were running together. The case of Zbigniew B. is indirectly related to the main investigation.

The Self-defence sex scandal hearings are proceeding behind closed doors for the sake of the alleged victims. Stanislaw Lyzwinski, in prison since August, was charged with rape, and, together with Lepper, for demanding and accepting services of a sexual nature from female party members, including Aneta Krawczyk, key witness and auxiliary prosecutor in the case.

Both Lepper and Lyzwinski pleaded not guilty. They are facing eight and ten years in prison respectively if convicted.

The investigation into the Self-defense sex scandal was launched after Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza published an article in December 2006 based on the account of Aneta Krawczyk, former Self-defense member and former head of Lyzwinski's parliamentary office. The woman claims to have been offered the position for providing both Lepper and Lyzwinski with services of a sexual nature.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Editorial: Not Just the Facts

There is, I will swear on the bible, no national or political prejudice involved, but I must confess to a growing distaste for many things Gazeta Wyborcza.

I’ve been reading Gazeta pretty much since I came to Poland 10 years ago, and have understood its language fully for about five. So it’s not that I’m not attracted to it. And we’re not talking about just any paper – Wyborcza was established on the back of the Roundtable Talks that eased out communism and was a major force in re-establishing Poland’s civic consciousness in the early 90s. But I’m increasingly convinced it has made a bad choice between the two ideas that founded it – delivering a partisan political message and supporting free speech.

A paper like Gazeta should be a centre for free, unbiased, responsible journalism as the country develops – and it is becoming the exact opposite.

Reporters at the paper are quite frank about its motives over the past two years.

“It was decided after the last election that it was simply vital to get the Kaczynskis out of government,” a senior member of the paper’s editorial staff told me late last year.

“The paper’s leaders believed that PiS’s impact in the long term would be so negative for Poland, for our development as a democracy, that removing them was of overarching importance. So journalists were told to focus on writing stories that attacked the Kaczynskis.”

Varying degrees of this approach clearly exist across the western world. Newspapers are never without a political bent. Wyborcza’s competitors, with the possible exception of the tabloids, all have their agendas.

But what singles out good newspapers and good journalism is that the news pages stick as much as they can to a balanced presentation of the facts of a story. Not to presenting particular facts to back up an assumption.

This leads us to a deeper problem. The Polish state is in the mess it is largely because, after two decades of democracy, politics are so ruthlessly partisan. Throughout the state sector, the new government has replaced people, yet again, on the basis of their political allegiances and contacts.

Unbiased journalism should be here to fight that. To find objective criteria and judge our politicians by it. You can’t expect readers to believe that you’re criticising or praising politician X for objective reasons when they know that you just want to lay into him for political ones.

And yet. The Warsaw local supplement Gazeta Stoleczna has a team of young journalists who generally go after hard news and only hard news. They ask: is there a delay with opening the new airport? What is the problem? What were the grounds for official X making decision Y? Did the council fail to consult locals? Are bus ticket prices about to rise? They just want the facts, and they just want them first.

Now isn’t that a good idea?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Can Polish National Remembrance Institute prove Walesa’s collaboration with Communist secret service?

A book to be published by historians from the of Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) attempts to prove that former Polish president Lech Walesa collaborated with the Communist secret services in the 1970s, Polish Radio reports.

The authors of the book, historians Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, want to show beyond doubt that the legendary Solidarity leader and former Polish President collaborated with the Communist Security Service (SB) under the nickname ‘Bolek’ from 1970 to 1976, as reported by RNF FM radio. Head of the Institute of National Remembrance, Janusz Kurtyka has revealed that the publication to be released within several weeks, will present all of the available documentation regarding Lech Walesa’a alleged collaboration with Communists, writes Dziennik daily. The former president has commented on the document being released on the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize as ‘hardly a coincidence’.

According to the radio, after Walesa stopped working for the Communist secret service, SB, in 1976, he was loyal to his colleagues from the anticommunist opposition, although the authorities would keep reminding him of his previous commitments as agent ‘Bolek’. The book will also present copies of some fake documents against Walesa that the SB forged.

In an interview with the TVN24 news channel, Walesa said that he has evidence of the undercover officer's real identity, and that he knows the agent personally. „I wasn’t Bolek’, Lech Walesa has said many times and has often denied that he had signed any cooperation agreements with the Communists, radio marks.

Walesa said that he does not want to reveal the officer's identity himself, but would like the authors of the IPN document to reveal it themselves. He added, however, that he will give the name of the SB officer if the authors fail to do so.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Attacks on the rise against Poles in UK

As more and more Brits are losing out in competition with well-qualified and cheap labour from Poland, the number of hate-crimes against Poles is growing.

Michal Kasztelan, a 28-year-old Pole currently working as a carpenter in Edinburgh, was beaten up because of his nationality. The three men who started kicking him kept screaming that he was taking their jobs away and calling him names such as "You f***ing Polish c**t!," reports Rzeczpospolita daily.

"Poles are being assaulted more and more frequently, primarily in small towns and in the countryside,” says Wiktor Moszczynski from the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, and author of the "Hate-Crimes against Poles in UK in 2007" report.

The document describes 50 instances of assault on Poles based on reports from local media.

According to the London Metropolitan police force, 48 hate-crimes against Poles were committed between December 2006 and November 2007, but this figure may actually be significantly higher, since many victims do not report attacks, adds Moszczynski.

"We don't mind Poles' presence,” says Simon Darby, spokesman for the far-right British National Party (BNP), quoted by Rzeczpospolita. "But when someone loses their job because the employer prefers to hire a Pole who is ready to work for much less, it is easy to understand the frustration. What would be the reaction in Poland, if all of a sudden 2 million people flooded the Polish job market," remarked Darby.

"If it turns out that we are indeed talking about hate crimes, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have no other option but to take action", said Krzysztof Lisek, head of the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Affairs of the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Fine Riot

Poland’s soccer season again ended with fans rioting this week, as Legia Warsaw and Wisla Krak?w fans demolished a chunk of Belchat?w’s stadium quarter of an hour from the end of the Polish cup final.

The game ended in a dour 0-0 draw, with Legia winning on penalties. But it was the dozens of fans involved in the fighting live on TV that grabbed the headlines.

“The hooligans who hold our state by the scruff of the neck,” Gazeta Wyborcza columnist Rafal Stec wrote on Thursday.

Only three fans were arrested, astounding commentators around the country who had watched the scenes on TVN.

“This is an enormous embarrassment for Poland,” national coach Leo Beenhakker told Wyborcza. “If I organised the national team as badly as the organisers did this game, I’d be out of a job.”

With Euro 2008 just three weeks away, the scenes were an echo of the handful of riots in the run-up to Poland’s appearance at the World Cup in Germany in 2006. The trouble then fed fears that the Poles would be a handful for police at the tournament, although finally there was little trouble.

Legia, who faced UEFA sanctions earlier this year for a riot by fans in Vilnius, Lithuania, have said they will not apply for tickets for UEFA Cup games next season to be allocated to fans.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Police Catch Polish Test Fraudsters

Two young men from the north-eastern city of Bialystok face up to three years' in prison after one of them got caught taking the matura school leaving exam for his friend last week. The examination board became suspicious when the 20-year-old presented an ID with a picture that did not look like him and called the police.

“The man admitted that his two-years-older friend had talked him into it,” said local police spokesman Jacek Dobrzynski.

Apparently the 22-year-old wanted to retake the test to get into a better university programme and asked his “genius” friend to take the test for him to increase his chances. Both men, whose names were not released, stand accused of making false statements in an official situation.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Corrupt Poland

Polish executives downplay the problem of corruption

Polish executives downplay the problem of corruption, a worldwide survey by Ernst & Young suggests. Almost one in five (18%) of Polish executives admitted to having been offered a bribe, compared to 14% in Western Europe. Yet only 16% see it as a cause for concern, against 25% in Western Europe.

"As many as 60 percent of our Polish respondents did not know whether their subordinates were ever offered a bribe." said Mariusz Witalis of E&Y Polska.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Opposition accuses government of ‘sloth’

Members of the largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), have negatively summed up the performance of PM Donald Tusk's government after its first six months in office.

Opposition politicians accuse the present cabinet of ‘sloth’ and being ‘plagued’ by the following ten negative phenomena: rising prices, privatisation of hospitals, stalling road construction, lack of public finance reform, destruction of the public media, lenient approach to criminals, as well as mismanagement of EU funds.

However, according to PiS politicians the cabinet is primarily plagued by the action – or lack of action - by Prime Minister Tusk himself, who instead of presenting concrete projects and policies, delivers ‘barbecue-style addresses’, said MP Beata Kempa (PiS), referring to the address Tusk delivered 1 May, Poland's national holiday, which was widely criticized by the opposition as being bland and lacking in detail.

The opposition has been critical recently of government plans to reform the health care system in Poland, claiming that this is merely privatization by stealth. The government retors that it only wishes to make hospitals self contained financial units which would remain under the control of local governments.

But Kempa said that the case of former PO-member Beata Sawicka, caught ‘red-handed’ while taking a bribe during a 'sting' operation prepared by the Anti-Corruption Bureau on 1 October, was instructive. Kempa said that Sawicka commented to bureau officers that she wanted to obtain benefits from the future ‘privatisation of Polish hospitals’.

Kempa said the proposed health care reforms were a ‘huge mess, greatly alarming doctors, nurses and society at large’.

The government is to present its own evaluation of its first six months in power after Prime Minister Tusk returns from a trip to South America, whose length and light duties critics have dubbed ‘the PM’s Latin American holiday’.

Friday, May 23, 2008

First Politician Jailed in Sex Scandal

A Lodz court on Monday sentenced the first of three politicians accused in the sex-for-jobs scandal that helped bring down Poland’s last coalition government, signalling there may be trouble ahead for two of the party’s leaders who are also on trial.

Samoobrona (Self-Defence) rural protest party official Jacek Popecki was sentenced to 28 months in jail for giving a woman, who had accused his party’s boss of fathering her child, drugs to induce a miscarriage.

In late 2006, Aneta Krawczyk accused the party’s firebrand leader Andrzej Lepper of having offered her political favours for sex in 2001, and then said he had been the father of her youngest child. She said the same of Lepper’s close collaborator and MP, Stanislaw Lyzwinski, and accused him of rape and sexual abuse. She also said that Popecki, who had been Lyzwinski’s aid, had tried to induce a miscarriage by giving her a labour-inducing drug called oxytocin.

Lepper and Lyzwinski both stand accused of extorting “favours of a sexual nature” from Krawczyk and face up to eight and ten years in jail respectively if convicted. Prosecutors had sought a four-year sentence for Popecki.

“The evidence given by the victim [Krawczyk], which is largely backed up by testimony from two witnesses and phone billings as well as the behaviour of the accused after these events, points to [Popecki’s] guilt,” the court said on Monday.

After Krawczyk’s initial lodging of charges, DNA tests showed that neither Lepper nor Lyzwinski had fathered her child, but testimony from other women convinced prosecutors to push on with the investigation in what became known as the “sex for work” scandal.

The trial was conducted behind closed doors to protect the victim’s privacy, even though Krawczyk originally accused Lyzwinski and Lepper in the glare of television floodlights. The revelations came while the party was part of a coalition headed by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) and was among a series of public rows that led finally to the downfall of their government.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Poland’s National Institute of Remembrance denies digging for dirt on Prime Minister

According to Polish Radio, the spokesperson for the Poland’s National Institute of Remembrance (IPN) has firmly denied media allegations that the institute has been searching for compromising material on Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
IPN’s Andrzej Arseniuk commented on the recent story from the portal, which published an excerpt from a recent interview with the current Prime Minister: "I heard that a couple of historians from the IPN intensively cooperated with Law and Justice politicians before the campaign," said Tusk.

This might mean, according to the portal, that the institute was digging for dirt on Tusk before the 2005 presidential and parliamentary elections, in particular, any evidence of his eventual contacts with the Communist secret services. Arseniuk assured that no such operation took place.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dazed and confused in days of yore

He took pot, drank some, and flew in the face of Catholicism – Newsweek portrays Prime Minister Donald Tusk from a somewhat different perspective.

He experimented with marijuana, did not refuse a drink, grew up revolting against the Church – journalists from the Newsweek weekly uncover unknown facts from the life of Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The weekly says that Polish mass media avoid going too deep into private lives of Polish politicians. Newsweek, on its part, decided to ask Tusk about everything – from family matters, including a crisis in his marriage at one point in the past, his attitude to religion as well as about alcohol and drugs. On the latter, he admits that in his youth he smoked marijuana grown by a friend and unlike former US president Clinton does not pretend that he did not inhale. All this and more can be read in a book about Donald Tusk, which will appear next week. This is not an interview with Tusk’s seal of approval, but a version of his life as seen by Newsweek journalists – and it’s not politically correct, the weekly says. It points out that Tusk’s popularity ratings remain high. Poles like his rule of love, based on opposition to what they were offered by his predecessors from the Law and Justice party. The premier is skillfully using the mass media to build his image of a popular politician and promote his aim which is to win presidency in two years from now, Newsweek comments.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Polish health care system is breeding corruption and fraud

Wprost claims that the Polish health care system is breeding corruption and fraud. Doctors and hospital managers accuse the Health Care Fund of putting the cost of medical services at too low a level and giving them too little money while in reality they are cheating the fund to suck out more money from it. If we add to that notorious palm greasing, fraudulent use of hospital property for private needs and plain mismanagement, the bleak picture of the Polish health care sector would be complete. Wprost says that in 2008 Poles will spend almost 47 billion zlotys in health care contributions to maintain this ineffective system. This is almost one third more than two years ago. But politicians claim that this is not enough. Premier Donald Tusk wants to raise health care contributions and the same time the ruling Civic Platform has recently distanced itself from its own plans to privatise the health care sector, which it actually badly needs, says Wprost.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Surprise, surprise: Polish beauty jailed kidnapping and torture

A Polish beauty who lured her former boyfriend into a torture trap has been jailed for six years.

The two men who held him captive and tortured the victim will both spend the next eight years behind bars.

Karolina Fedyna sweet-talked Lukasz Matysek to her flat in Hove with the promise of sex and a reconciliation.

But the real motive on her mind was revenge after the 20-year-old left her without paying a debt.

Mr Matysek was beaten with baseball bats, burned with cigarettes and cut with a knife during his 24-hour ordeal.

At the same time a party was taking place in the next room and revellers were pressured into joining in the assaults.

Toby Fitzgerald, prosecuting, said Fedyna and Mr Matysek lived together in London in 2006.

He owed her ?150 for rent after they split up and Fedyna moved to a flat in Brunswick Place, Hove.

She was intent on getting her money back and lured him into visiting her with the promise of re-starting their sexual relationship.

Fedyna greeted him with a kiss on the doorstep on June 2 last year, and led him into what appeared to be an empty flat.

When he emerged from the bathroom he was confronted by her by her new boyfriend Konrad Kornatowski, 25, and Bartolniez Ziaja, 25, who also both lived there.

Kornatowski, who was jailed in Poland for being a prostitute's pimp, grabbed Mr Matysek.

He was bound with duct tape and beaten at first every ten minutes and then every hour until the next morning.

He was shoved under a table while Kornatowski, Fedyna's new boyfriend, celebrated his 'name day' with a party in the flat.

Mr Matysek was brought out from time to time and beaten as part of the entertainment and others were encouraged to join in.

Fedyna slipped into a masseuse outfit and posed for saucy pictures during the party.

Mr Matysek's attackers forced him to hand over his bank card and PIN number and withdrew cash from a machine in Western Road, Hove.

His attackers were caught after they ordered him to phone a friend to get more money put into his account.

The friend became suspicious and called police who raided the flat the next morning.

Because he was tied and his eyes were covered Mr Matysek could not identify exactly who had tortured him.

Fedyna, Kornatowski and Ziaja pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and blackmail at an earlier hearing and were sentenced at Hove Crown Court today.

Selwyn Shapiro, defending Kornatowski, said: "These offences were completely inexcusable but stem from an affair of the heart.

"This was a curious love-triangle and that may explain why he behaved in the way he did."

Tony Loader, defending Fedyna, said she had tried to stop the attacks on Mr Matysek when she thought he had had enough.

Louise Sweet, defending Ziaja, said he had only been in England for a few weeks and knew nothing about the plan to torture the victim before it happened.

Judge Anthony Niblett told them: "I am fully satisfied that you two men were the first to use violence towards Mr Matysek.

"You continued to use violence throughout the period he was held captive.

"You are both responsible for imprisoning him, tying him up, beating him repeatedly yourselves and torturing him."

Detective Constable Andrea Stroud, one of the investigating officers, said: "This was a just sentence and I am sure that the victim will be pleased with the outcome."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No important achievements by government, says poll

The vast majority of Poles cannot name a single important achievement accomplished by Tusk’s government, a poll reveals.

As many as 79 pr cent of respondents of an opinion poll by pollster TNS OBOP believe the current government has not done anything significant since the election last autumn.

Four per cent said the image of Poland has improved recently, three per cent pointed to some improvement in the relations between Warsaw and Moscow, and the same percentage thought that the abolition of the radio and TV licence fees would be a major achievement. Two per cent are impressed at the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, writes Puls Biznesu.

Respondents were also asked to compare the current and former cabinets in respect of their effectiveness.

According to 30 per cent, the current government is doing well combating corruption, while 25 per cent say the opposite. In the opinion of 28 per cent of Poles, the construction of new roads in Poland has accelerated and 21 per cent are of a contrary opinion.

Forty three per cent could not see any difference between the current Civic Platform and the former Law and Justice governments in terms of their effectiveness.

Twenty four per cent responded that the current cabinet was less efficient in terms of the preparations for Euro 2008, while 21 per cent thought the same about the former government.

The opinion poll was conducted for TVP SA on a group of 1000 people over 15 years of age, on May 8-12.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Polish companies two times more corrupt

According to Ernst&Young, the level of corruption in Polish companies is twice as high as in Western European countries.

A report by the consulting company stresses that Polish companies see corruption as a less important problem than companies from fully developed countries.

One in five companies in Poland came in contact with corruption, but only 16 percent of companies sees it as a serious threat for business.

In Western Europe, 25 percent of companies think corruption it as a serious problem.

As many as 12 percent of Polish companies claim that they lost contractors because the competition bribed them; 8 percent of companies in Western Europe expressed the same opinion and 17 percent of companies from developing countries (such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia).

One in four companies said that the level of detecting bribery in Poland has not changed during the last five years, but 54 percent of are convinced of the effectiveness of the police.

The research was conducted from 28 November 2007 to 15 February 2008; 1,186 representatives of management of the biggest corporations in 33 countries took part.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Polish Justice Minister Defends Search of Homes of Vetting Commission Members

Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski said here Wednesday that the Tuesday [13 May] search of homes belonging to two members of the WSI (Military Information Services) vetting commission was part of an investigation against four people. The investigation had been commissioned by the prosecutor's office. ABW [Internal Security Agency] officers followed orders, Cwiakalski added.

Piotr Baczek and another one of the four people whose homes were searched Tuesday by ABW internal security agency were members of the WSI vetting commission, set up at the initiative of former deputy defence minister Antoni Macierewicz.

PiS [opposition Law and Justice] MPs aboard the Sejm special commission for political pressure, Jacek Kurski and Arkadiusz Mularczyk, said they feared their homes may also be searched as Baczek was Kurski's aide.

According to [ruling] Civic Platform PO such allegations are groundless.

The head of the Sejm committee for special services, Janusz Zemke (Left), said there were no irregularities in ABW Tuesday's search.

Prosecutor Robert Majewski of the Warsaw bureau for organized crime said Wednesday his office motioned for arresting Wojciech S. and Aleksander L. suspected of taking bribes while screening WSI officers.

Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said the treatment of journalists during the search of Baczek's home was an "utter scandal".

The Polish Journalists' Association appealed to the Ombudsman for demanding explanation to "scandalous" behaviour of ABW officers vis- a-vis journalists. Polish TV reporters filming the search of Baczek's home were deprived of their cameras on grounds of shooting illegal footage.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Potty Polish PM admits he ‘did inhale’

In an interview with the Polish version of Newsweek, Prime Minister Donald Tusk admits that in the 1980s he toked on a few spliffs. Cue predictable outrage from some opposition MPs.

In a long interview that delves into the past of Donald Tusk - which will be soon released as a small book - the prime minister talks about his time as a Solidarity activist and some of his experiences when he was banned by the communists from getting normal work.

Forced to take casual jobs as a painter and decorator and other manual work, he admits that he spent much of the time drinking cheap wine and on occasion smoking marijuana.

But the similarities with tales from that old perve Willy Clinton end when Tusk admits that he did inhale.

MPs from his own Civic Platform, like Julia Pitera, have praised Tusk for his honesty, for ‘breaking the conspiracy of silence’ about the issue of drug taking by politicians in their youth and that the statement ‘inspires trust’ among the electorate.

Predictably, however, members of the conservative Law and Justice party have jumped on the revelation in an attempt to gain a few points.

The outraged MP Beata Kempa said she wants a ‘sober and drug-free PM’ because senior politicians must have a spotless reputation. Kempa said that smoking wacky backy leads to ‘pathologies’ and causes ‘changes to the brain’ with symptoms such as failing memory things this’t quite remember.

But looking closer at Tusk, with his red tinged hair - and if you had smoked enough - then he could have a passing resemblance to a Camberwell Carrot.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Judge says Polish prosecutors must revise indictment against last communist leader

Prosecutors must revise their indictment against Poland's last communist leader and other former officials for imposing martial law in 1981, a court ruled Wednesday in a decision that could delay indefinitely a trial of the elderly defendants.

It remains unclear whether the men, some of whom are in poor health, will ever face trial for the crackdown, which put tanks on Polish streets and thousands of pro-democracy activists in internment camps.

The Warsaw regional court granted a defense motion that requires prosecutors to fill in gaps in the current indictment or prepare a new one against 84-year-old Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski and eight other former communist officials, court spokesman Wojciech Malek said.

"In the court's opinion the evidence presented by prosecutors is only a fragment of the possible evidence that should be presented, and more evidence should be sought that will have an essential role in deciding the case," Malek said.

Prosecutors from the Institute of National Remembrance, a state body that investigates communist-era crimes, will appeal the ruling, institute spokesman Andrzej Arseniuk said.

The court recommended that prosecutors interview leading foreign politicians of the period — the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig — to determine the international context of the communist leadership's decision to impose the crackdown, Malek said.

The court should also include the opinion of a team of historians on the historical context of the crackdown, he said.

Jaruzelski, who appeared in court Wednesday wearing a gray suit and his signature dark glasses, has long defended his decision to impose martial law. He has said it was the only way to forestall the Soviet Union from invading to crack down on the pro-democracy Solidarity labor union movement itself.

Early on Dec. 13, 1981, secret police and militia rounded up and jailed democratic activists. Tanks and armored transports rumbled through Polish cities, armed soldiers patrolled the streets and authorities cut phone lines.

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, who was jailed during the clampdown, told TVN24 television that putting the former communist leaders on trial "is not about inflicting punishment. It's about clarifying and cleansing for future generations."

"We have to do this so that nobody comes up with the same idea in the future," he said.

Prosecutors charged Jaruzelski and the other ex-officials in March 2006 with violating the constitution and with leading an "organized criminal group of a military nature having as its goal the carrying out of crimes that consisted of the deprivation of freedom through internment."

Jaruzelski spent a few weeks in a hospital in February with heart problems and pneumonia before undergoing a minor procedure to stabilize his heart in March, and looked frail in the courtroom Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Polish Secret service files found in private homes

The Internal Security Agency has searched 11 homes looking for top-secret files regarding the liquidation in 2006 of the Polish military counterintelligence agency, the WSI.

Secret documents were found in three of the homes searched yesterday', the spokesperson of the General Prosecutor's Office said on Wednesday.

Later, Prosecutor Robert Majewski revealed to the press that as many as 11 homes had been combed in the search for the top-secret files in question, the Dziennik daily reports.

Investigators are demanding that at least two out of the four homeowners in question be arrested.

Piotr Baczek, press officer to the former WSI liquidator, Antoni Macierewicz, was one of the persons on the Security Agency's list.

'They were looking for some secret files but I did not have any', Baczek told RMF FM radio Wednesday morning.

Baczek also said that internal security agents had informed him that the search was connected to allegations of attempts to sell the annex of the top secret report on WSI's liquidation, written by Macierewicz, to the publisher of Gazeta Wyborcza daily, Agora.

Baczek admitted that several documents were found in his flat regarding the operations of the former military services, but the top-secret annex was not among them.

When asked if it was true that some journalists had been shown the annex and offered to buy it for 250,000 zlotys, Baczek suggested that the action could be part of a deliberate stung operation in order to frame members of the WSI Liquidation Committee, headed by Macierewicz.

The prosecution summoned Piotr Baczek for questioning Wednesday afternoon but no charges were made and he was released after the interrogation, writes the Dziennik web site.

The daily speculates whether the secret files may have been found in the homes of another WSI liquidator, Leszek Pietrzak, former officer in the Communist intelligence services Aleksander Lichocki (who allegedly offered the report to the daily for money) and Polish TV journalist Wojciech Sumlinski.

Lichocki and Sumlinski were arrested yesterday on corruption charges. Both are pleading not guilty.

The WSI was dissolved by the previous government in October 2006 due to, what they alleged, were illegal activities by many of the agents. The 400 page report alleges that agents were involved in a cabal including organized crime members, journalists and politicians sympathetic with post-communist forces in Poland.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Polish youngsters use cough syrup as learning aid

Cough syrup, asthma medicines and large amounts of energy drinks are being used by Polish exam taking students to boost their intellectual powers, writes Dziennik.

Medical experts warn that taking such substances can be highly addictive, lead to anxiety states, withdrawal symptoms, depression and suicide attempts.

According to the daily, the problem is starting to concern younger and younger kids.

Polish government’s plenipotentiary for fighting corruption, Julia Pitera, is preparing an amendment to anticorruption law, which broadens the list of people obliged to publish their property statements on the Internet, Gazeta Wyborcza writes.

If the new law is passed, the duty to make the property report public will be binding, among others, for heads of the Supreme Chamber of Control (NIK), the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), as well as heads of the Polish special services, including the Agency for Internal Security (ABW) and the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA).

The largest satellite operator SES Astra is to introduce a new service in Poland, which is likely to reach the two million Polish homes that so far have remained outside the reception of the stationary Internet, Rzeczpospolita informs.

According to experts, Astra is likely to win some 200-300 clients in Poland, what will bring the company some 300 million zlotys a year.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Donald Tusk Says Poland Is Crap

It's a gray, windswept afternoon in Warsaw, and Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, is running late. His flight in from Gdansk has been delayed by a storm; the schedule is tight. The Georgian President has come to visit, and then there's the weekend trip to Washington to talk over missile defense with George W. Bush. Three guests are waiting in the Chancellery when Tusk arrives. "I am not crazy about this job," he sighs, plunking down in an armchair and unbuttoning his jacket. That's understandable. Nineteen years after his country broke free from the Soviet bloc, it is still ridding itself of the effects of communist rule. Employment levels are among the worst in Europe. Roads, telecommunications and sewage lines are in terrible shape. As for Polish political life, Tusk admits, it can only be described as "weird."

Tusk's election last October, moreover, may mark a new consolidation of Polish democracy. Where once 20 political parties vied for space in the Sejm (the Polish parliament), now a manageable four hold the floor. For the first time since the end of communism, voters reaffirmed the ascendancy of Poland's economic conservatives. The post-communist left has now failed to win in two successive votes. Yet Tusk, 50, is keenly aware of the challenges ahead. His party has no experience in power, and he has been criticized by the opposition for being a "media star" without substance. "If the aim of government is not to disturb much, then he is a good PM," jokes Jaroslaw Flis, a political commentator at Krakow's Jagiellonian University.

In a lengthy interview, Tusk says his government's ambition is great: to complete the transformation to a free-market system begun almost two decades ago. The disastrous legacies of 45 years of communist rule — from a bloated bureaucracy to punishing unemployment — have yet to be cleared away, he says, and Poland cannot afford to waste more time. "We have no oil and gas," he says. "We don't have high tech. Our centers of development, are far, far behind others. We will never be an extraordinary tourist attraction. Poland is quite a mediocre country in some regards. The only natural resource that we have, and with which we can compete, is freedom."

Many Poles hope the new government is more apt to address Poland's lingering economic ills, beginning with the fact that nearly one-half the working-age population is not officially working, and public spending still soaks up 45% of GDP. Low investment in infrastructure means that it takes longer to drive from Warsaw to Krakow today than it did 10 years ago. Though the exodus is slowing, some 20% of young Poles seek their first jobs outside the country. "A poor country with a badly structured welfare state cannot become an economic tiger," says Balcerowicz. "If Poland is to become another Ireland it has to complete its fiscal reforms."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Self-Defence party members on trial in abuse case

An unprecedented trial of politicians involved in a work for sex scandal in the populist Self-Defence party continues in Piotrkow Trybunalski, central Poland.

Today, the court is hearing Aneta Krawczyk, the chief witness and auxiliary prosecutor, who first informed the mass media about the scandalous practices, to which she fell victim as an employee in the Self-Defence party. Standing trial are the party’s leader, Andrzej Lepper, and former deputy chairman Stanislaw Lyzwinski. Both defendants plead not guilty.

Lyzwinski, who has remained in custody since last August, is charged with rape, among other things. Both he and Andrzej Lepper are accused of demanding and accepting sex in return for job guarantees from the party women-members. The trial is being held behind closed doors.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Kaczynski - health reform ‘worst con since 1989’

Leader of the opposition Law and Justice party (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski has criticised the Civic Platform’s proposal for the public health system reforms calling it ‘dangerous and scandalous’.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski has called the government’s plan to restructure Polish hospitals into independent business entities as ‘the worst con since 1989’ and said that the PO’s reform was in essence an attempt to sell off the Polish medical sector, reports the Radio Information Agency (IAR).

He recalled the words of the former Civic Platform MP Beata Sawicka, arrested on corruption charges in October 2007, who revealed that her party would definitely privatise Polish hospitals, at a price of 100 billion zlotys, and those who would handle the privatisation could make good money on it.

According to the opposition leader, his party will do its best to have the package rejected by Parliament.

Former Deputy Health Minister Boleslaw Piecha (PiS) appealed to government to explain the ‘unofficial’ pre-election comments made by Sawicka. He also pointed out that the government announced its proposal for public health sector restructuring at exactly the same time as predicted by Sawicka, who told an undercover anticorruption agent in the summer of 2007 that Civic Platform would announce privatisation plans for hospitals in May or June 2008. (mj)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lepper on trial for sex scandal

Poland's former deputy prime minister Andrzej Lepper went on trial on Tuesday for allegedly forcing a female employee to have sex with him and other officials in exchange for getting a job, Poland's TVN24 news channel reported.

The trial of the populist Samoobrona (Self-Defence) party leader and his deputy Stanislaw Lyzwinski, who is accused of rape and sexual harassment, was being held behind closed doors under a decision by the court hearing the case in Piotrkow Trybunalski, a town in central Poland.

Lepper, 53, was charged in November 2007 with exploiting his position as Samoobrona leader to force a woman who was seeking a job with the party to have sex with him and other officials in 2001-2002.

The offence carries an eight-year prison sentence.

Lyzwinski, 54, could face 10 years behind bars. Both men have denied the charges.

In December 2006, 33-year-old former party employee Aneta Krawczyk accused Lepper and Lyzwinski of demanding sex in exchange for a job.

Lepper was also charged over a failed attempt to force sexual favours from another female party employee.

The sex scandal rocked Poland's coalition government, contributing to a slide in popularity that saw it fall from power in a snap election in October 2007.

Lepper was once a political pariah, best known for leading commando-style protests as a 1990s farm activist which earned him a string of court convictions.

In May 2006, however, the conservative Law and Justice party brought Samoobrona, along with the far-right League of Polish Families, into a coalition to shore up its minority government.

Lepper, who served as agriculture minister and deputy premier, was fired in September of that year after a policy dispute, only to return weeks later as the then prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski sought to stave off the ensuing political crisis.

Lepper was sacked again in July 2007 after a bribery scandal, although he denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was the victim of a feud with Kaczynski.

Samoobrona was swept from parliament in last year's snap election - which also saw Kaczynski lose office - obtaining just 1,5 percent of the vote compared to 11,4 percent in the 2005 polls.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Polish government not influencing Polish Football Association, says PM

Prime Minster Donald Tusk has said that he has no intention of influencing who will be the next president of the Polish Football Association (PZPN).

Polish Radio reported that Civic Platform (PO) MP Slawomir Nitras is a candidate for the head of PZPN. PM Tusk said that he did not discus the matter with Nitras.

Nitras told Polish Radio that he had been approached by the representatives of the government about the issue, but later on told the Polish Press Agency that he had not received any formal proposition of heading the PZPN, only some general suggestions.

"I am not making decisions on what is going on at the PZPN. I value MP Nitras very much, but he hasn't been talking to me abut this issue, nor did any other persons interested in the post," said PM Tusk at a press conference yesterday.

The PM added that it is not the task of the PM or the government to decide about the hierarchy in sports associations.

The new president of PZPN will be elected on 14 September. The present one, Michal Listkiewicz, announced that he is not planning to run for re-election.

His resignation is in connection with widespread corruption that has spread throughout the leagues, including the Polish premier division. So far some 120 people, including coaches, PZPN board members and referees have been charged by the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Self defence clause to be put into penal code

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Piotr J. is innocent of murder after shooting someone breaking into his house, the government wants a change in the penal code to protect those acting in self defence.

Victims of assaults who killed their attackers in self-defense will probably be able to avoid going on trial.

At present, it can take years before their innocence is proved by court.

Yesterday the Supreme court declared Piotr J., who in September 2005 shot a man trying to break into his house, not guilty. His trial lasted three years in total.

This is why the Ministry of Justice announced plans to amend the Polish penal code in order to protect people acting in self-defence, making it possible for prosecutors to discontinue proceedings against a person at the investigation stage, without taking them to court. This way the procedure would last a couple of months, instead of a couple of years.

Penal law experts vary in their opinion concerning the amendment. While some praise it for protecting those who take necessary action when their lives are in danger, others point out that in such grave matters prosecutors will be reluctant to rely on their own moral judgement, and would rather write an indictment and forward the case to a court anyway than discontinue proceedings.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Another referee detained in Polish football scam

Another referee has been detained today in connection with the ongoing investigation into widespread corruption within Polish football.

"We have detained a referee who is suspected of corruption in sports, but our suspicions don't concern any premier league match," Edward Zalewski of the Wroclaw prosecutor's office told the Polish Press Agency. He added that the referee is likely to hear charges today.

The investigation on the corruption scandal in Polish football has been underway since May 2005. So far some 100 people have been charged, including sport activists, referees and Polish Football Association officials.

Last December the first corruption trail started in a court in Wroclaw, western Poland. In the dock there were 17 people, among others Ryszard F. aka Fryzjer, who is an alleged organiser of the illegal practices.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Football clubs will not be punished for corruption

The Polish Football Association (PZPN) once again surprised the public announcing that there will be no more relegation of football clubs basing on corruption charges.

The officials of the Ekstraklasa league and the management of PZPN had prepared a joint project of relegating punished clubs, however, now PZPN plans to grant an amnesty for the corrupted teams. Such a decision sounds beneficial for football players and fans of clubs which were charged with corruption, but not yet punished, such as Zaglebie Lublin and Korona Kielce. Tthe project is also supported by Canal+, the main sponsor of the league. According to Dziennik, sponsors have agreed to support it as the league is to be a product which can be sold, therefore it has to include the strongest domestic clubs, among which several are threatened by of relegation.

Match fixing not discouraging investors

In a related story,

Match fixing, corruption and stadium hooliganism in Polish football is still not discouraging investors, Rzeczpospolita writes. According to one estimate, by 2015 the value of Polish football could 5 billion zlotys a year. However, investors admit that they treat football as a promotion of their brands, rather than an investment, writes Rzeczpospolita.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Suicide of Barbara Blida impossible to recreate from evidence

A report on the suicide of MP Barbara Blida, who shot herself after Internal Security agents entered her home to arrest her over corruption charges, has shown that in spite of the enormous amount of evidence gathered it is impossible to recreate the events which led to the death of the former government minister.

According to a commercial Polish television station, whose journalists reached the confidential report, it points out major faults and fundamental inconsistencies in the evidence. Among others, the evidence fails to show in which hand Barbara Blida had held the gun she used to shoot herself, or where at that time was the agent assigned to accompany her.
Although more than 600 hours was devoted to collecting evidence, the material can serve for various interpretations and several scenarios.

The death of Social Democratic Left MP Barbara Blida is also being investigated by a special Commission of the Polish Parliament.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Police pursue polish raiders

Oslo police are on a hunt for a band of six polish men who they say have been traveling around Norway and Scandinavia on a thieving raid.
Oslo police have started a campaign against pickpockets, and they are out on the streets telling people about it.

The police have the names of the men, who are 26 to 38 years old, and have been showing photos of the six men at their afternoon meetings, writes

The police hope to apprehend them on the open street, so that they can be immediately sentenced and sent out of the country.

The six suspects are believed to be behind at least 33 serious robberies in the counties of Vestfold, Asker, Baerum and in Oslo.

"These are extremely professional pickpockets... they have specialized in stealing wallets and are very good at abusing cards," said Bj?rn ?ge Hansen, station chief at the Central Police Station.

But importantly, they are not just pickpockets, points out Hansen. They commit all types of crimes.

And the six men who are being sought are not the only ones under police focus right now.

Although the police say it has mostly been Polish "bands" covering the pickpocket market, Romanians are another major group behind these crimes, they add.

They base their assessment on their own observations and the few statistics they have.

So far this year, the police have only managed to catch 48 people committing pickpocket crimes. Of these, 19 were from Poland, 14 were from Norway, and 8 from Romania. The rest were of various nationalities.

The Polish and Romanians have an entirely different method of stealing than the Norwegians do, say the police, while the Polish are in a professional class by themselves.

"These are people who travel around in groups of four to six people, together with friends or family. They come to Norway with one goal, and that is to commit crimes," said Hansen.

The bands target the largest cities in Norway: Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim.

Hansen emphasizes that he doesn’t want to stigmatize certain ethnic groups. "This is actually tragic, because we have a large group of average Polish and Romanians here in Oslo. These thieves are ruining things horribly for their countrymen who work here," he said.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Vatican handed file on Polish priests’ actions

A Polish Roman Catholic diocese said yesterday that it had handed over to the Vatican the results of a probe into the alleged sexual harassment of seminarists and choir boys by three priests.

“After wrapping up the investigation, we have transferred the files to the Vatican. Now all we can do is wait,” Father Kazimierz Dziadak, spokesman for the diocese of Plock in central Poland, was quoted as saying by the Polish news agency PAP.

The diocese launched the investigation after the scandal broke in the Polish media in March 2007.

Three priests from the region are suspected of having harassed at least 10 seminarists and choir boys from 1992-2005. They have been suspended from Church duties.

Local justice authorities also investigated but later decided to shelve the case, saying they only found evidence of behaviour that was questionable on “moral but not criminal grounds”.

Polish media have blasted the former bishop of Plock, Monsignor Stanislaw Wielgus, for allegedly tolerating errant priests and denting the reputation of the Church in Poland, where more than 90% of the population of 38mn is Catholic.

Wielgus also found himself in the spotlight last year for other reasons. In January 2007 he was forced to quit as archbishop of Warsaw, only hours after being sworn into as the successor of the retiring Cardinal Jozef Glemp, after it emerged that he had collaborated with the secret police in communist-era Poland.