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Walesa communist-era collaboration probe looks at signature

April 13, 2016

Prosecutors will seek to establish whether anti-communist hero Lech Walesa's handwriting matches the signatures of a purported communist-era agent. Walesa has been dogged by such accusations since 1989.

Lech Walesa Streikführer 1980
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Lehtikuva Oy

Walesa met with a prosecutor of the state National Remembrance Institute (IPN) in Warsaw for three hours Wednesday. He was reportedly questioned about recently revealed documents that suggest Walesa was an informant for the communists in the 1970s, operating under the code name "Bolek."

Walesa has been dogged by such accusations since 1989, when Poland threw off the shackles of communism.

The public emergence of the files coincides with the recent election of the right of center Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The party, led by one of Walesa's historical enemies - Jaroslaw Kaczynski - has targeted public figures it deems responsible for what it has refered to as Poland's failed catharsis of 1989, when - as they see it - the communists were left off the hook.

Walesa was a key figure in the negotiations that led to semi-free elections in June 1989 and subsequently to the end of communism in Poland. However the 1990-1995 president, in PiS's opinion, shielded ex-communists from prosecution.

A woman holds a placard with a portrait of Lech Walesa and slogan "Solidarity with Lech" during a march organised by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), in Warsaw, Poland, 27 February 2016.
A woman holds a placard with a portrait of Lech Walesa and slogan "Solidarity with Lech" during a march organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy (KOD), in Warsaw, Poland, in late FebruaryImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Obara

A paid informant?

In March documents emerged that appeared to show that Walesa had signed receipts showing he was a paid informant. Walesa denied the accusations.

According to the head of the IPN, Lukasz Kaminski, the documents included a commitment to provide information from 1970-76, signed by Walesa with the codename "Bolek."

There are also pages of reports and receipts for money signed by Walesa during this period. He admitted he had signed a commitment to be an informant during the 1970s but never acted on it. He was cleared by a special court 16 years ago. The court ruled in 2000 that there was no evidence of his collaboration with secret services.

The 279 pages of documents were seized from the house of the late General Czeslaw Kiszczak, the last Communist-era interior minister. Kiszczak helped orchestrated a crackdown on the Solidarity movement in 1981. He died last year.

The Associated Press said it has seen photocopies of hundreds of pages of documents, some of which bear "Lech Walesa" or "Bolek" signatures. The documents are dated between the end of 1970 and late 1976.

Handwriting experts hold the key

The prosecutors will now seek an opinion from handwriting experts who will compare various Walesa signatures with those on the documents.

It is not clear when the opinion could be expected.

jbh/kms (AP, AFP)