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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 29, 2010
Blood, Shock and Recrimination
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Blood, Shock and Recrimination
October 29, 2010   
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The shocking murder of an assistant working for the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, the first politically-motivated killing in Poland in the last 20 years, has triggered a wave of bitter recrimination. The opposition claims it has been targeted by a government-instigated “campaign of hatred.”

On Oct. 19 shortly before noon, a man entered the Law and Justice (PiS) party’s offices in the central city of ŁódĽ. He headed upstairs to the offices of EU deputy Janusz Wojciechowski and Polish parliamentary deputy Jarosław Jagiełło. Shouting insults, he shot Marek Rosiak, an assistant to Wojciechowski, eight times in the chest with a small 0.22 Walther pistol, killing him on the spot.

The attacker, identified by police only as 62-year-old Ryszard C., then pulled out a 10-centimeter hunter’s knife and stabbed Jagiełło’s assistant Paweł Kowalski several times in the neck and shoulder. Seriously injured, Kowalski tried to defend himself and managed to survive until the arrival of a municipal police patrol alerted by neighbors. The patrol overpowered the attacker after a struggle. As he was led handcuffed to a police car, the attacker shouted that he hated PiS and the party’s politicians. “I wanted to kill [PiS leader Jarosław] Kaczyński, but my gun was too small,” he told police. He added he had cancer and just seven months left to live.

A former taxi driver, black-market currency dealer in the communist era, and three-times divorcee, Ryszard C. lived in recent years in Częstochowa, but left his house in July. Later, he traveled around Poland, staying in hotels. He was well-off. He had worked for several years in Canada and was reportedly entitled to a Canadian pension. Just before the assault, he spent several days in ŁódĽ, probably planning the attack. Earlier, he had stayed for some time in Warsaw, where he was seen near PiS offices. There is evidence suggesting that he initially wanted to carry out his attack in the capital.

One day after the killing, Ryszard C. was formally charged with murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he could face a life jail sentence. Ryszard C. admitted the charges, but refused to explain his actions. Instead, he demanded that a press conference be held at which he could make an “important statement.” His demand was refused.

The killing, the first politically-motivated murder in Poland in the last 20 years, sparked a wave of accusations against the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party from PiS politicians. Soon after the media broadcast the shocking news from ŁódĽ, Kaczyński openly accused PO politicians, including Prime Minister Donald Tusk, of instigating such crimes through a “campaign of hatred” against the opposition that started months earlier.

Tusk’s reaction was reserved. At a special press conference, he conveyed his condolences to the victims and their families. At the same time, he cautioned against the escalation of unjustified accusations. “I hope we will all come to our senses,” Tusk said and called on politicians to temper their words in political disputes.

But PO politicians, even those in senior posts, refused to pay heed. Stefan Niesiołowski, deputy speaker of the lower chamber of parliament, known for his sharp tongue, said Kaczyński was “increasingly a case for a psychiatrist.” Former PO politician Janusz Palikot also sharply attacked Kaczyński, saying he performed a “devil’s dance over coffins,” something Poland had already seen after April 10, the day of the presidential plane crash near Smolensk.

The evening of the same day, Witold Waszczykowski, deputy foreign minister in the former PiS government and one-time foreign affairs adviser to ex-President Lech Kaczyński, held an emotional press conference in front of the building where the killing had taken place. Waszczykowski, who is a candidate for ŁódĽ mayor in the November local elections, appealed to the government: “Stop killing us!”

An extraordinary meeting of the parliamentary justice and security services committees was held one day later. Deputy Antoni Macierewicz from PiS demanded that a parliamentary investigative commission be set up to probe the crime in ŁódĽ. Kaczyński added that the commission should be headed by a PiS politician. But PO politicians said the demand was “absurd,” as leader of the PO parliamentary group, Tomasz Tomczykiewicz, put it. He added it was prosecutors’ responsibility to carry out the investigation.

President Bronisław Komorowski tried to calm the atmosphere, but his efforts were of no avail. Komorowski tried to invite Kaczyński for a meeting on Oct. 21. But Kaczyński rejected the invitation. Instead, he delivered another address in parliament, full of accusations against the government. Kaczyński spoke about recent developments in front of the President’s Palace, where, he claimed, attempts had been made with the alleged approval of police to physically attack a group calling themselves the “defenders of the cross” who had gathered at the cross commemorating the Smolensk plane crash in which former President Lech Kaczyński, Jarosław Kaczyński’s twin brother, and 95 other people were killed.

Later in the day, the Polish People’s Party (PSL) held a conference in the parliament building to present small olive trees to all parliamentary parties, asking them to temper their language in public debate. But there is little to suggest that this unusual initiative will prove successful.
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