Lech Walesa fights claims that he was secret police informant

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The Independent Online

Lech Walesa, Poland's Nobel Prize-winning former president, was at the centre of an explosive political row yesterday following publication of a book which claims that the ex-Solidarity trade union leader worked as a secret police informer under Communism.

The potentially devastating charges are contained in a 780-page work, The Secret Police and Lech Walesa, which has been written by two historians at Poland's Institute for National Remembrance, IPN, a government-backed group that specialises in documenting the Communist era.

The authors, Slawomir Cenckiewicz and Piotr Gontarczyk, claim to have uncovered evidence which they say proves that in the 1970s, before Solidarity was founded, Mr Walesa collaborated with Communist officials under the code name "Bolek". Both historians base their book on information gleaned from the IPN archive, which contains some 54 miles of secret police files covering most of Poland's Communist era.

"There is positive proof that Lech Walesa was registered with the secret police under that code name between 1970 and 1976," Mr Cenckiewicz insisted in an interview yesterday. "We provide clear evidence in our book including registration cards, entries and notes from secret police files and reports from the so-called informant Bolek."

But many claim the charges are a continuation of an anti-Communist witch-hunt which was launched by Lech Kaczynski, the current Polish President, and his twin brother, a former Polish prime minister, before their government was voted out of office last year.

Donald Tusk, the current Polish Prime Minister, has insisted that the accusations against Mr Walesa are politically motivated. Former communist officials have also pointed out that secret police files were routinely falsified. And the deputy director of Poland's IPN has insisted that the book is part of the Kaczynski-era witch hunt and should not be published under the IPN's name.

Mr Cenckiewicz claimed that the secret police files had shown that Mr Walesa had written reports and informed on at least 20 people for anti-Communist offences such as listening to Western radio stations. He said some of them had been persecuted by the secret police as a result of the testimony. Similar charges surfaced against Mr Walesa in the early 1990s. The writers note that Mr Walesa was president at that time and they claim that he tried to remove incriminating pages from his secret police file.

Mr Walesa, who resigned from the Solidarity trade union in 2006 in protest at the Kaczynskis' claims, dismissed the accusations in the new book as a "fairy tale". He said he believed communist officials falsified his secret police file after he became Solidarity leader, as part of a campaign to discredit him. "Nothing like that happened," he insisted.

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