Walesa fights charge of spying for secret police

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The Independent Online

Lech Walesa, the legendary leader of Solidarity who was at the head of the struggle against Communism in Poland and helped bring down the Iron Curtain, appears in court today, facing the most unexpected struggle of his career. He is accused of working for the secret police in the Communist era.

Lech Walesa, the legendary leader of Solidarity who was at the head of the struggle against Communism in Poland and helped bring down the Iron Curtain, appears in court today, facing the most unexpected struggle of his career. He is accused of working for the secret police in the Communist era.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, the present Polish President, was cleared yesterday of similar allegations. Documents recently surfaced from the confidential files of the SB, Communist Poland's notorious secret police, which it is claimed identify both men as former SB informants.

Mr Walesa supposedlyworked under the code name Bolek between 1970 and 1976. Mr Kwasniewski was alleged to have worked under the alias Alek while he was a journalist in the early Eighties.

If the allegations were proved true, the men would be banned from holding public office. But few in Poland believe the accusations - Mr Kwasniewski's exoneration yesterday was widely expected.

The truth seems to be that the two men are victims not of their own pasts, but of post-Communist Poland's bitter factional politics.

The allegations came to light because Mr Walesa, Poland's first post-Communist president, and Mr Kwasniewski are both running in October's presidential elections. Candidates must declare if they ever worked for the SB, or collaborated with it. Past links carry no penalty, but if a candidate is found to have lied he is barred from office for 10 years.

Mr Walesa insists that he is in favour of the vetting law. "I have always been and still am for the screening," he said. "The point is in separating truth from lies... This is why I humbly submit myself to the screening procedure."

However, a leading newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, has denounced the allegations as a "vetting coup d'etat" and supporters of both candidates say they are victims of smear campaigns.

This is not the first time Mr Walesa has been accused of SB links. In 1992, he appeared on the infamous "Macierewicz List" of 64 alleged Communist collaborators. The list was drawn up by Antoni Macierewicz, then Interior Minister, and most of the those on it were political opponents of his government - which fell in the ensuing scandal.

Mr Walesa is confident he will triumph in court . But in October's presidential elections he looks certain to lose. He may still be something of a national hero, but as a politician his popularity has evaporated. There are 15 candidates, and Mr Walesa is a long way behind in the opinion polls. The incumbent, Mr Kwasniewski, enjoys 60 per cent support and looks likely to remain in power.

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