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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 24, 2008
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Martial Law Trial Begins
September 24, 2008   
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The trial of nine former senior officials including communist-era strongman Wojciech Jaruzelski charged with crimes related to the introduction of martial law in Poland 27 years ago finally began in Warsaw Sept. 12.

The Institute for National Remembrance, a body set up by the state to investigate Nazi and communist crimes, has charged the nine with a range of offenses, including running and participating in an "armed criminal organization whose purpose was to commit crimes" and exceeding their authority. The defendants are former members of both the Military Council for National Salvation (WRON) set up on the night of Dec. 12-13, 1981 and the Council of State of the People's Republic of Poland, the body that officially imposed martial law Dec. 13 and issued the relevant decrees.

The main defendants are 84-year-old Gen. Jaruzelski, then first secretary of the Polish communist party, prime minister and head of WRON; 82-year-old Gen. Czesław Kiszczak, then minister of internal affairs and a WRON member; and 80-year-old Stanisław Kania, then former first secretary of the central committee of the communist party.

The defendants, who face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, deny committing a crime, arguing they were acting in a situation where Poland faced an imminent threat of Soviet invasion. The prosecution claims, backed by many historians, that no only was there was no such danger, but the Soviet authorities knew what was going to happen, having been consulted while martial law was being planned.

The prosecution also claims that the defendants knew the legal instruments they were preparing contravened the constitution and that the Council of State was acting unlawfully by issuing the martial law decrees during a parliamentary session.

Jaruzelski earlier said that "an independent court will be able to evaluate the painful truth," adding that he wanted a prompt trial. He repeated his claims that martial law had been introduced to save the country from disaster.

Former deputy defense minister Gen. Tadeusz Tuczapski and former chief of the Polish Army General Staff, Gen. Florian Siwicki have also been charged. Both were members of the WRON.
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