Polish lawyer faces extradition

Click to follow
THE OXFORD university professor whose wife may face extradition to Poland for alleged crimes during the Stalinist era lashed out yesterday at what he described as "misrepresentation of the case" and a "smear campaign".

Wlodzimierz Brus, emeritus professor of Russian and East European studies and a fellow of Wolfson College, said that his wife, 79-year-old Halina Wolinska, "won't speak any more - she'll speak to the proper authorities. She has not been told anything officially. She's waiting till the proper authorities will confront her with a request - she won't respond to a smear campaign".

A Polish court will take the decision this week on whether to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mrs Wolinska, a lawyer in Poland during the Stalinist 1950s. If the court issues the arrest warrant, that will be followed by an extradition request to the UK.

Mrs Wolinska has described the charges against her as "a shameful pack of absurd lies". She is accused of fabricating evidence against Emil Fieldorf, a former leader of Poland's non-Communist resistance to the Nazi occupation. Poland's "Armia Krajowa", or national resistance army, was loathed by the Communist regime because it had kept Moscow at arm's length throughout the Second World War. Fieldorf was hanged in 1953, after a brief show trial.

Mrs Wolinska has said: "It wasn't my case - I was in the army part of the jurisdiction and Fieldorf was tried in the civil court." She is accused of signing Fieldorf's arrest warrant, though she herself says: "I was not there. I did not see the papers." Her husband said yesterday: "Her only involvement in this case was consent. She never had anything to do with the trial."

If the extradition request does go ahead, it could lead to many similar requests. Whatever the rights or wrongs of Mrs Wolinska's particular case, the question of General Pinochet's extradition seems almost simple, by comparison. The potential extradition of the Chilean dictator could be followed by a long list of other alleged wrongdoers from different countries.

Every town and city in Communist eastern Europe was littered with people who played an active part in executing the sometimes lethal policies of the repressive regime. Many of those people with dubious CVs now live in Britain and other Western countries.

A Home Office spokesman emphasised yesterday that approval of the extradition request would not be automatic. "A purely political act wouldn't necessarily qualify."

In Poland, many of the regime's worst crimes have been allowed to rest. Police who murdered a pro-Solidarity priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, were prosecuted. But the bloodshed in 1956 and in 1970 has never been legally pursued. In 1981, pro-Solidarity strikers in a Silesian mine were killed; an inquiry is theoretically under way, though little has emerged. General Jaruzelski, who ordered the tanks on to the streets in 1981, now lives in almost dignified retirement.