Polish communist leader Jaruzelski to be charged for martial law

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Prosecutors said Tuesday they were preparing charges against the nation's last communist leader, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, for his imposition of martial law, as Poles marked the 24th anniversary of the clampdown.

Prosecutors argued that Jaruzelski violated the constitution when he imposed martial law in 1981, said Ewa Koj, a prosecutor with the National Remembrance Institute, which pursues communist-era crimes.

Jaruzelski, 82, also could face charges for harassment, the internment of thousands of government opponents and the deaths of almost 100 people during some 18 months of martial law.

Jaruzelski could not be reached for comment, but he has maintained that martial law pre-empted a Soviet invasion.

Koj indicated the charges, which were expected to be filed early next year, could lead to three years in prison.

"It's necessary to say at last that the general is not a hero, that what he did was bad and brought about serious consequences," she said on TVN24 television.

Jaruzelski's government imposed martial law on Dec. 13, 1981, and outlawed the Solidarity movement, which was pushing for economic reforms and democracy.

On Tuesday, President-elect Lech Kaczynski visited the Wujek coal mine in southern Poland where nine miners were killed on Dec. 16, 1981, when protesting martial law.

"We will never forget this crime," Kaczynski wrote in the visitors' book, later placing flowers at the monument to the fallen miners.

In Warsaw, youths dressed as communist-era riot police evoked the gloomy atmosphere of martial law as they stood in the Royal Castle Square, at the time the site of many violent clashes between civilians and security forces.

Jaruzelski still faces trial for the 1970 shooting deaths of striking shipyard workers in the Baltic port cities when he was defense minister. The trial began in 2001 but was stalled due to procedural problems.

Some 15 years after he stepped down as the nation's leader in 1990, formally ending communist rule in Poland, Jaruzelski remains a controversial figure. Vilified by political conservatives for martial law, he is lauded by former communists for peacefully relinquishing power.

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